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Medicare Will Help Hurricane Dorian Victims Get Access to Care

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina residents can get replacement medicines, equipment

Man helping a woman using a walker outside of a shelter

ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Doris Krokoff, 96, walks with her son, Lowell Krokoff, outside the special needs shelter at the South Florida Fairgrounds as Hurricane Dorian approaches.

En español | Federal officials have declared public health emergencies in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Southeast. This will eliminate some of the red tape residents might otherwise face if they need to replace prescription drugs or medical equipment or get health care away from home.

"We will partner and coordinate with state, federal, and local officials to make sure that in the midst of all of the uncertainty a natural disaster can bring, our beneficiaries will not have to worry about access to healthcare and other crucial life-saving and sustaining services they may need,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.

Here are some of the actions CMS is taking to speed care to hurricane victims:

  • Prescription drugs: Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans will have to provide access to needed drugs — including at out-of-network pharmacies — if hurricane victims have to fill prescriptions after evacuating from their homes. In most cases, prescriptions can be moved temporarily to a new pharmacy. CMS is waiving the requirements for referrals.
  • Medical equipment: Medicare will pay to replace equipment that has been lost or damaged in the storm. This includes prosthetics, orthotics and supplies. Beneficiaries can contact 800-MEDICARE (633-4227) for help.
  • Dialysis: CMS has activated the Kidney Community Emergency Response program. Medicare patients can contact that end stage renal disease (ESRD) network to find dialysis treatment where they have relocated.
  • Stress: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has activated the Disaster Distress Helpline. The toll-free, multilingual and confidential crisis support is available to all U.S. residents. Those needing help can call 800-985-5990 or text talkwithus to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Medicare and Affordable Care Act: CMS will allow certain Medicare beneficiaries and individuals seeking health care coverage through the federal Health Insurance Exchange to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and get access to coverage on the exchange if they need health care while they are relocated.
  • Skilled nursing care: Medicare usually requires a three-day hospital stay before it will pay for any long-term care in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home. As part of its response to the storm, CMS is waiving that three-day hospitalization requirement for those people who have to evacuate their home or be moved from a facility in the affected area.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the addition of North Carolina