HHS Helps Medicare Beneficiaries
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt declared a public health emergency in the flood-stricken states of Iowa and Indiana. The action gives HHS' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
"The flooding in Iowa and Indiana is devastating to each individual and to their communities," Secretary Leavitt said. "This designation will allow HHS to immediately assist our beneficiaries and providers in the areas where hospitals and other health care delivery systems have been disrupted. It will help ensure that medical assistance is provided promptly and effectively."
Secretary Leavitt acted under his authority in the Public Health Service Act.
Because of flood damage to local health care facilities, many beneficiaries have been evacuated to neighboring communities, where receiving hospitals and nursing homes may have no health care records, information on current health status or even verification of the person's status as a Medicare beneficiary. CMS is assuring those facilities that in this circumstance, the normal burden of documentation will be waived and that they can act under a presumption of eligibility.
"In emergencies such as this, CMS has the flexibility to ensure that vital health care services can be maintained and utilized," said CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems. "Many of the agency's 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."
CMS will undertake the following actions to the extent necessary to ensure sufficient items and services are available to meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries. The agency will make certain that health care providers that provide items and services in good faith are exempt from sanctions from noncompliance with otherwise applicable requirements, provided there is no fraud or abuse.