August 26, 2020
HHS Secretary Azar declares public health emergencies in Louisiana and Texas due to Hurricane Laura
Following the lead of President Trump’s emergency declarations for Louisiana and Texas, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar today declared public health emergencies in the two states as Hurricane Laura continues its track in the Gulf of Mexico. The declarations and related waivers give HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
“Hurricane Laura is an extremely dangerous storm that poses a significant threat to the health and safety of Louisianans and Texans,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We have been working for months to prepare for the challenges of hurricanes striking land during the COVID-19 pandemic. With these declarations and waivers, the Trump Administration is helping to ensure that Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need during and after the storm.”
In addition to making these declarations to increase the flexibility in providing services and assistance for CMS beneficiaries, HHS activated an incident management team and strategically pre-positioned medical personnel from the National Disaster Medical System and their caches of medical equipment in the region so these assets are available quickly to help authorities in either state respond to communities’ medical needs. Additional staff members are 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 to make 50 additional ambulances available to evacuate hospitals and nursing homes if needed. HHS incident managers are staffing operations centers in impacted states to stay abreast of potential public health and medical needs post-storm.
Data and tools available through the HHS emPOWER Program, a partnership between ASPR and CMS, supported preparations in Louisiana and Texas. The program provides valuable information on the number of Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electricity dependent medical equipment and certain healthcare services, including dialysis and home oxygen, to help anticipate, plan for and respond to at-risk needs in potentially impacted areas.
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 August 22, 2020, in Louisiana, and to August 23, 2020, in Texas.
Public health and safety information for responding to a hurricane during a pandemic, visit the Center for Disease and Control’s website on Hurricanes and COVID-19.