FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Contact: CMS Office of Public Affairs
HHS Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency for Texas
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today declared a public health emergency to ensure that individuals in Texas, including those enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), continue to receive their health care items and services.
The action gives HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs for its Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries. Secretary Leavitt acted under his authority in the Public Health Service Act.
“Hurricane Ike is quickly approaching the Gulf Coast of Texas and these actions will ensure that beneficiaries continue to receive their health care services when they leave their communities as encouraged by their local officials,” Secretary Leavitt said.
Given the potential impact of Hurricane Ike on the health care of affected beneficiaries in Texas, Secretary Leavitt declared the public health emergency under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, and, under section 1135 of the Social Security Act, waived or modified certain Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP requirements to the extent determined necessary on a case by case basis.
CMS will take the following actions, among others, to ensure sufficient items and services are available to meet the need of Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries. The agency will make certain that health care providers that provide items and services in good faith are exempt from sanctions for noncompliance with otherwise applicable requirement, provided there is no fraud or abuse.
CMS will waive certain program requirements for the following institutional providers:
- Critical Access Hospitals: Allow these hospitals to take more than the statutorily mandated limit of 25 patients and not count the expected longer lengths of stay for evacuated patients against the 96-hour average;
- Skilled Nursing Facilities: Will waive the three-day prior hospitalization requirement for admission for evacuated patients and relax limitations on the benefit period for those evacuated patients;
- Long-Term Care Hospitals: Not count the evacuated patients in determining compliance with the 25 day average length of stay requirement;
- Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities: Not count the evacuated patients in determining compliance with the 60 percent rule requirement. The 60 percent rule requires that at least 60 percent of a facility's patient population fall into certain clinical conditions.
CMS will expand the definition of “home” to allow those Medicare beneficiaries who are receiving home health services to receive those services in alternative sites.
For the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, CMS has been working with prescription drug plans to ensure that rules preventing early refills are waived. This will assist those beneficiaries who left their prescriptions in evacuated homes or lost their prescriptions when they had to leave their homes.
Beneficiaries in Medicare health plans will be able to go out of network during this emergency. CMS is working with the health insurance industry to ensure there are no barriers to this service for those enrolled in these plans.
CMS will work with affected State Survey Agencies and providers to temporarily adjust quality assurance enforcement actions where the immediacy of direct patient care needs due to Hurricane Ike is appropriate.
End Stage Renal Disease Networks in the affected region have already initiated arrangements to ensure the continuation of dialysis and health services for end stage renal disease patients. Also, CMS will be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to manage lost, stolen, or abandoned durable medical equipment.
The HHS Web site homepage is featuring a link to public health and safety information specifically related to hurricanes at www.hhs.gov/hurricane. The Declaration and the Waiver are available at http://www.hhs.gov/disasters/emergency/naturaldisasters/hurricanes/ike/actions.html.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: September 11, 2008