CMS Relaxes Rules for HME Patients Hit By Hurricane Michael

As HHS Secretary Azar declares a public health emergency, CMS says it will ease requirements for DME items lost or damaged due to the storm.

As Hurricane Michael began battering Florida’s Panhandle and North Central Gulf Coast yesterday, CMS temporarily suspended various requirements for Medicare beneficiaries in Florida whose DME items have suffered damage from the hurricane.

On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency (PHE) in Florida, which let CMS temporarily waive or modifying several requirements and take measure to ensure access to various services and resources.

For HME patients and providers, CMS will temporarily suspend requirements for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost or sustained damage to their DME, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies as a result of the hurricane. This will help to make sure that beneficiaries can continue to access the needed medical equipment and supplies they rely on each day. Medicare beneficiaries can contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for help.

“The waivers that will be in effect in Florida will give healthcare providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility to provide continued access to care throughout this storm,” Administrator Seema Verma said. “We will continue to monitor the hurricane and work closely with officials in Florida.”

CMS also:

  • Temporarily waived or modified certain Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP requirements for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. More info can be found at www.cms.gov/emergency.
  • Made available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. More information can be found at go.cms.gov/2NFTFup and go.cms.gov/2MtSUQH.
  • Has created a Disaster Response Toolkit, with an inventory of Medicaid and CHIP flexibilities and authorities, available at bit.ly/2CSFspL.
  • Is helping dialysis patients obtain access to critical, life-saving services. CMS has activated the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) program, which is working with Quality Insights Renal Network 7, ESRD NW 7, to assess the status of dialysis facilities in the potentially impacted areas. CMS says patients have been educated to have an emergency supply kit on hand including important personal, medical, and insurance information. The toll-free hotlines for each NW are:  800-826-3773 for NW 7; 877-936-9260 for NW 8, and 800-524-7139 for NW 6. The KCER hotline is 866-901-3773.
  • Has suspended current survey and enforcement activities for healthcare facilities, but will continue to investigate allegations of immediate threat to patient health and safety.
  • Is requiring Medicare Advantage Organizations and Part D Plan sponsors to maintain access to covered benefits for beneficiaries in affected areas by allowing Part A/B and supplemental Part C plan benefits to be furnished at specified non-contracted facilities and waiving, in full, requirements for gatekeeper referrals where applicable.

The guidelines for Florida officially went into effect on Oct. 11, but are retroactive starting Oct. 7. Additional guidelines can be found at bit.ly/2CbO9K8.

Providers might recall HHS and CMS undertook similar measures a month ago in the wake of Hurricane Florence, as well as last year after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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