October 18, 2018
HHS Activates Aid for Uninsured Floridians Needing Medicine after Hurricane Michael
Thousands of uninsured Floridians are eligible for no-cost replacements of critical medications lost or damaged by Hurricane Michael. This relief comes from the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP), managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
The program pays for prescription medications for people without health insurance who are affected by disasters. More than 4,900 Florida pharmacies participate in EPAP, and more than 72,000 pharmacies participate nationwide.
“The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program provides vital assistance to people without insurance who rely upon certain prescription medicines to protect their health after disasters,” said HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “I encourage citizens in Florida who can use this assistance to take advantage of it to ensure they have an adequate supply of the medicines they need.”
At no cost to uninsured patients, those needing certain prescription medications during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any EPAP participating pharmacy through Nov. 15. Most prescription drugs are available.
Uninsured patients also may use the program to replace specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment, such as canes and walkers, damaged or lost as a direct result of Hurricane Michael or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to an emergency shelter.
EPAP provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area.
Uninsured Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael can call 855-793-7470, to learn if their medication or specific durable medical equipment is covered by EPAP and to find a participating pharmacy or visit www.phe.gov/epap.
HHS also has Disaster Medical Assistance Teams working alongside local healthcare providers to care for emergency department patients at damaged or overwhelmed hospitals. In addition, these federal medical teams have triaged people found by Urban Search and Rescue and provided basic medical care for residents in local emergency shelters. Since arrival, these teams have seen more than 1,500 patients.
A U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps behavioral health team also is providing behavioral health support for emergency responders.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has information available to help citizens understand the safe use of medical products, including insulin and devices, exposed to flooding or unsafe water after Hurricane Michael. This information includes the safe use of temperature-sensitive drugs when refrigeration is temporarily unavailable.
The FDA also continues to monitor Hurricane Michael’s impact on companies that develop products the FDA regulates, including medicines, medical devices, food, and the blood supply, to help ensure safety and availability. There have been no reports of significant impacts on companies that produce critically important medical products, and no shortages of these products are expected at this time.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention subject matter experts are working with the state health department to determine and meet any long-term public health effects of the hurricane and providing public health information such as safe clean up and preventing common post-disaster diseases.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is providing waivers and flexibilities to assist healthcare providers and suppliers in providing necessary care and services to beneficiaries throughout the emergency.
CMS is working with the Kidney Community Emergency Response network and dialysis providers to check on the well-being of dialysis patients and reschedule their dialysis services at open dialysis facilities after the hurricane.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated its Disaster Distress Helpline, a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. The Disaster Distress Helpline is toll-free, multilingual, and confidential. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (for Spanish, press 2 or text Hablanos to 66746) to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The helpline has received almost 200 calls from Floridians in the past week.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared public health emergencies in Florida and Georgia to authorize flexibilities for CMS beneficiaries, following President Trump’s emergency declarations in those states due to Hurricane Michael. These actions and flexibilities are retroactive to Oct. 9, 2018, in Georgia and Oct. 7, 2018, in Florida.
HHS, through ASPR, leads the federal government’s public health and medical response and recovery support for states and territories after disasters. HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. ASPR’s mission is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats.
Information on disaster health and HHS actions is available on www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available on https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html.