September 11, 2018
HHS Secretary Azar Declares Public Health Emergencies in North Carolina and South Carolina Due to Hurricane Florence
Following the lead of President Trump’s emergency declarations for North Carolina and South Carolina, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar today declared public health emergencies in the two states as Hurricane Florence continues its track toward the eastern seaboard. The declarations give HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
“Hurricane Florence is an intense storm and is predicted to be highly destructive, which poses a significant threat to the health and safety of those in its path,” Secretary Azar said. “These actions help ensure that Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need when the storm makes landfall.”
In addition to making these declarations to increase the flexibility in providing services to, and assistance for, CMS beneficiaries, HHS strategically pre-positioned approximately 230 medical personnel from the National Disaster Medical System and their caches of medical equipment in North Carolina and Maryland so these assets are available quickly to help state and local authorities respond to communities’ medical needs. HHS also activated the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps’ Rapid Deployment Force to assist if needed after the storm. Additional staff is on standby to assist.
HHS staff from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) also coordinated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to activate a national contract that makes additional ambulances available to evacuate hospitals and nursing homes if needed. ASPR regional emergency coordinators are staffing operations centers in impacted states to stay abreast of potential public health and medical needs post-storm.
ASPR and CMS also coordinated to provide information to North Carolina and South Carolina health officials on the number of Medicare beneficiaries who rely on dialysis or on special medical equipment at home and the type of equipment, such as oxygen concentrators, in the potentially impacted areas. With this information, health and emergency management agencies can respond better, particularly after power outages, to save lives.
Secretary Azar acted under his authority in the Public Health Service Act and Social Security Act in declaring the public health emergency and authorizing flexibilities for CMS beneficiaries. These actions and flexibilities are retroactive to September 7, 2018, in North Carolina, and to September 8, 2018, in South Carolina.
Public health and safety information for Hurricane Florence can be found on the HHS emergency website, https://www.phe.gov/emergency/events/2018-Severe-Storms/Pages/default.aspx