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HHS Secretary Alex Azar declares wildfires a public health emergency; CMS issues program waivers

CMS reminds Medicare Advantage organizations of their requirement to waive prior authorization in affected areas.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is giving providers and the California Hospital Association technical assistance on Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP program flexibilities as they deal with the public health emergency caused by wildfires in the state.

It has issued a blanked skilled nursing waiver so these facilities can provide continued access to care.

In addition, CMS is reminding Medicare Advantage organizations in affected areas that they are required to waive prior authorization and other gatekeeping requirements to allow care to be provided by non-contracted providers and facilities.

The agency is providing beneficiaries with a special enrollment period for Medicare and is helping dialysis patients who are unable to receive services at their usual facility, to find another location.


Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has declared a public health emergency in areas of California, retroactive to November 8. An estimated 50 people have died in the fires and numerous homes and acreage have been destroyed.


The Camp Fire in Northern California damaged one hospital, forcing the evacuation of patients. Numerous towns in the state are under mandatory evacuation orders, disrupting needed healthcare services.


"The lives and homes of thousands of Californians are at risk from dangerous wildfires and CMS is taking the necessary steps to provide flexibilities that help meet the medical needs of all those who are affected," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. "We are committed to helping everyone who has been impacted as they recover and rebuild their lives by ensuring access to care for themselves and their families."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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