On August 30, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced the efforts that are underway to support Texas and Louisiana in response to Hurricane Harvey. Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared public health emergencies in both States. Actions include temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements to provide immediate relief to those affected by the hurricane and resulting floods.
“In light of the natural disaster still unfolding in Texas and Louisiana, CMS is committed to acting as quickly and effectively as possible so the States can continue to ensure the vital health care needs of our most vulnerable beneficiaries are not interrupted,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “CMS is in constant communication with officials in Texas and Louisiana to be sure we are doing all we can to support those in the path of this historic and devastating storm.”
CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are working in close coordination with the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) Network and the States of Texas and Louisiana to ensure that beneficiaries have access to facilities to provide their treatments. As the CMS response continues, other efforts include, supporting Texas and Louisiana in arranging Special Purpose Renal Dialysis Facilities, transporting patients to facilities and arranging for new facilities to open in order to serve beneficiaries without interruption. In Texas, CMS is coordinating with the workforce on the ground that cares for renal patients to ensure there are enough facilities to serve beneficiaries in need of dialysis. The agency is accepting requests from end stage renal disease suppliers to become a temporary Special Purpose Renal Dialysis Facility (SPRDF).
Since the public health emergencies were declared, CMS has offered immediate administrative relief actions to Texas and Louisiana including issuing several general waivers of certain requirements for specific types of providers in impacted counties and geographical areas. These waivers work to prevent gaps in access to care for beneficiaries.
- Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF): CMS waives requirements for a 3-day prior hospitalization before admission in order to receive Medicare SNF services and provides temporary emergency coverage of services in SNFs without a qualifying hospital stay for people who are evacuated, transferred, or otherwise dislocated due to Hurricane Harvey. Certain people with Medicare benefits who recently exhausted their SNF benefits are authorized for renewed coverage without first having to start a new benefit period.
- Home Health Agencies: This CMS waiver provides relief to Home Health Agencies on the timeframes related to completion of OASIS (assessment data) Transmission.
- Critical Access Hospitals (CAH): CMS waives the requirements limiting the number of patient beds to 25, and allows for length of stays beyond the capped 96-hour time period.
With the public health emergency in effect, CMS can also waive or modify certain Medicare provisions for providers, including certain deadlines, conditions of participation and certification requirements. Providers can now submit waiver requests to the state survey agency or the CMS regional office and they will be evaluated to ensure that they meet the requirements set out under the law. To help clarify billing instructions, CMS has issued technical direction to the Medicare Administrative Contractors regarding the waivers and has reminded area Medicare Advantage plans regarding their responsibilities to relax certain requirements during a disaster or emergency.
CMS will continue to work with the States of Texas and Louisiana. The agency continues to update our emergency page (www.cms.gov/emergency) with important information for state and local officials, providers, healthcare facilities and the public.
To read previous updates regarding HHS activities related to Hurricane Harvey, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/news.
To learn more about HHS resources related to Hurricane Harvey, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/hurricane-harvey.