CMS Relaxes Rules for Patients Hit Calif. Wildfires

As HHS declares a public health emergency, CMS has issued blanket waivers to help beneficiaries get needed care and services.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has declared a public health emergency in California due to the various wildfires ravaging the state, and CMS has issued blanket waivers to help beneficiaries impacted by the multiple, large wildfires.

“We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health,” Secretary Azar said. “This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”

CMS has issued several blanket waivers in the areas of California impacted by the fire. These waivers will prevent gaps in access to care for beneficiaries impacted by the emergency. Providers don’t need to apply for an individual waiver if a blanket waiver has been issued. Providers can request an individual Section 1135 waiver by following the instructions available as a PDF.

The waiver went into effect at 3 pm Pacific time on Nov. 15, and is retroactive to Nov. 8. CMS will post additional updates to its Current Emergencies page.

The fires have claimed 66 lives, destroyed more than 10,000 homes, and forced the evacuation of more than 81,000 Californians. More than 600 people are still missing.

In terms of health resources, the fires have forced the evacuation of at least two hospitals and eight other healthcare facilities, according to HHS. Air quality in various parts of the state is at dangerous levels for respiratory patients.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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