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Will Hurricane Irma Affect My Medicare Benefits?

Temporary changes help recipients fleeing the storm

Medicare advice for storm victims

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During and after the storm, Medicare recipients are still responsible for paying premiums on time.

If you’re a Florida Medicare recipient affected by Hurricane Irma, federal officials have taken steps to ease your access to health care services, even if you’re forced to flee your home.

By declaring a state of emergency, President Trump and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price triggered many temporary changes to Medicare rules in an effort to avoid disrupting Medicare recipients' ability to get health care. (These are the same changes in place for Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas and Louisiana.)

Maybe the most important thing you should know: Regardless of your situation during and after the storm you are still responsible for paying all your Medicare premiums on time.

If you have any questions about how to get care — or where — contact information for Medicare and your plan should be on your Medicare plan card. You can also call 800-MEDICARE.

Here are some tips to help you access Medicare during this emergency:

Going to the Doctor or Hospital

  • If you are a patient under original Medicare (Parts A and B), you are eligible to see any doctor or go to any medical facility in the United States that accepts Medicare. Be sure to have your Medicare card available to show a new provider.
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be able to see a doctor or go to a hospital that’s not in your plan’s network. Contact your plan to find out if it is waiving rules for prior authorization for out-of-network providers. Plans also may be waiving out-of-network costs so you can pay in-network rates for out-of-network services.

Prescription Drugs

With the emergency declaration, restrictions have been relaxed on obtaining prescription drugs.

  • Contact your plan if you had to flee without your drugs or they have been damaged or lost.
  • If you don’t have access to a network pharmacy, you should get in touch with your drug plan to find one that’s available in your new location. Most prescriptions can be moved temporarily to a new pharmacy.
  • An out-of-network pharmacy may be available, though you may have to pay more up front. You should save receipts; you may be able to get a refund from your drug plan.
  • You may want to get a 60- or 90-day supply if you think you may not be returning soon to your home. Your drug plan should know whether extended-day supplies are available.

Dialysis

If you are an original Medicare patient, your end stage renal disease (ESRD) network can help you find dialysis treatment where you have relocated.

  • For Medicare Advantage plans, your ESRD network can help you find a dialysis facility, though it may not have a contract with the facility where you have temporarily relocated. Contact your plan for more information.

Cancer

  • For original Medicare patients, the National Cancer Institute (800-422-6237 or TTY 800-332-8615) can help you find providers in your new area. Phone hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. You can also get information at www.cancer.gov.
  • Medicare Advantage patients should contact their plan to find out about possible emergency-based rules.

Premiums

  • If your premiums for any of the Medicare plans are automatically paid by your bank or the Social Security Administration, those payments should continue.
  • If you pay premiums yourself, you are still responsible for those payments — whether they are for original Medicare’s Part B, a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) or a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D).
  • If you don’t pay your premiums on time, the plans can drop you. You may be able to reenroll if the emergency prevented you from paying.

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