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HHS offers flexibility to southern states after storms


By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: May 7, 2011 - 9:45 am ET
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In response to the severely destructive tornadoes and storms in the South, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to the governors of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee to explain options those states have to hasten Medicaid eligibility for those who may need healthcare services but can't pay for it.

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States can expand healthcare access by providing temporary increases in Medicaid income eligibility limits and also by removing resource tests, according to a news release. They can also allow states to permit residents to certify their income and residency, if they lost documents during the storm. Another option lets states reduce administrative duties by delaying the process to re-determine whether an individual remains eligible for Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Sebelius wrote that HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is providing technical assistance and working with state health authorities to address the behavioral health effects on citizens as a result of the storms. She also guaranteed the agency's assistance and guidance so states can address the needs of residents quickly.

“I know that my staff has been in close contact with your state's health and human services agencies, including the Medicaid agency, and I have instructed them to provide the consultation and guidance necessary to help your state expeditiously address the needs of your state's residents affected by this disaster,” Sebelius wrote. “We also directed our regional emergency coordinators to work closely with your state health officers to assist with any requests to HHS for public health and medical support. The ACF (Administration for Children and Families) regional offices are always available to help you with human services issues and to provide additional information regarding Disaster Case Management.”


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