Capitol Correspondence - 08.15.23

CMS Resources Seek to Address Gaps in Health Care in Aftermath of Hawaii Wildfires

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As the State of Hawaii continues to battle devastating wildfires that have claimed nearly 100 lives and left communities grappling with the aftermath, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is providing critical resources and flexibilities to providers.

In response to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency on August 11, CMS has partnered with Hawaii to offer assistance that will help bridge the gaps in health care caused by the wildfires that began on August 8. 

CMS’ proactive approach involves a multi-faceted strategy encompassing hospitals, health care facilities, and individuals requiring immediate medical attention. To address specific challenges arising from the wildfires, health care providers can now submit requests for additional flexibilities directly to CMS through its dedicated portal 

Furthermore, CMS has introduced a comprehensive Disaster Toolkit and Support system for State Medicaid and CHIP Agencies. This toolkit serves as a repository of flexible measures and authorities available to states during times of disaster. By leveraging this toolkit, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) operations can maintain seamless functioning, ensuring that people relying on these programs continue to receive essential coverage and care.  

A critical aspect of CMS’ response revolves around dialysis care. The activation of the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) program, in collaboration with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Network 17, underscores CMS’ dedication to ensuring access to life-saving dialysis services. The ESRD Network 17, covering Hawaii, is actively assessing the status of dialysis facilities in areas potentially impacted by the wildfires. 

CMS is acutely aware of the immediate needs of those who have suffered the loss or damage of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies due to the wildfires. To facilitate replacements and ensure uninterrupted access to crucial medical items, CMS is temporarily waiving certain requirements. Those in need can seek assistance by contacting 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). 

Amid the ongoing public health emergency, CMS also underscores the significance of privacy considerations. Individuals seeking guidance on the application of the HIPAA Privacy Rule during emergencies are encouraged to explore the HHS Office for Civil Rights’ HIPAA Emergency Preparedness, Planning, and Response page. Additionally, the HHS Office for Civil Rights provides a comprehensive Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Ensuring Language Access and Effective Communication, catering to emergency responders and officials. 

CMS remains steadfast in its commitment to collaborate closely with the State of Hawaii and the affected regions. Individuals and health care providers impacted by the wildfires are urged to seek help and access crucial information through CMS’ emergency webpage, or its comprehensive repository of preparedness and response resources tailored to the health sector and emergency management professionals.

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