CHA News Article

Public Health Emergency Declared in Southern California Due to Wildfires

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency in California because of the Southern California wildfires and issued a waiver under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act. The 1135 waiver covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, as listed in President Trump’s Dec. 8 emergency declaration, and became effective at 1 p.m. (PT) on Dec. 13, retroactive to Dec. 4.

As a result of the public health emergency declaration, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced several actions to support California and residents impacted by the wildfires.

CMS issued a skilled-nursing facility (SNF) waiver pursuant to Section 1812(f) of the Social Security Act. SNF care without a three-day inpatient hospital stay will be covered for beneficiaries evacuated from a nursing home in the emergency area, discharged from a hospital in the emergency or receiving locations in order to provide care to more seriously ill patients, or who need SNF care as a result of the emergency, regardless of whether that individual was in a hospital or nursing home prior to the disaster. CMS will also provide coverage for beneficiaries in the disaster area who were recently discharged from a SNF after utilizing all of their available SNF benefit days.

In addition, Medicare beneficiaries will be provided with a special enrollment period, giving them an additional opportunity to join, drop or switch health and prescription drug plans through March 31, 2018.

CMS has also established hotlines for dialysis patients unable to receive services at their usual facility, and to assist non-certified Part B suppliers, physicians and non-physician practitioners to enroll in federal health programs and receive temporary Medicare billing privileges. Additional information is available on CMS’ wildfire webpage.

CHA will continue to monitor the CMS website for information on additional waivers, such as those provided to hospitals affected by the Northern California fires for quality reporting programs, and will inform members of additional developments in CHA News.