Severe flooding has led HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to declare a public health emergency in Iowa and Indiana, an action the CMS said will give Medicare beneficiaries and their healthcare providers more flexibility in meeting emergency-health needs.
After some healthcare facilities were destroyed by the floods, many beneficiaries were evacuated to neighboring communities where receiving hospitals and nursing homes may have had no healthcare records or information, according to the CMS.
In emergencies such as this, CMS has the flexibility to ensure that vital health care services can be maintained and utilized, acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems said in a news release. Many of the agencys normal operating procedures will be relaxed to speed provision of health care services to the elderly and persons with disabilities who depend upon these services.
The agency said it will take steps to ensure that services are available to meet patient needs. These include waiving certain requirements for critical-access hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities, long-term-care hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation facilities; expanding the definition of home to allow Medicare beneficiaries who receive home health services to do so at alternative sites; waiving rules that prevent early refills for the Medicare Part D prescription benefit; and allowing beneficiaries in health plans to go out of network during the emergency. The CMS said it will work with the health insurance industry to ensure there are no barriers to this service for those in plans. -- by Jessica Zigmond