When a severe weather event happens (such as a hurricane, typhoon, earthquake or wildfire), the last thing you or your healthcare provider are thinking about is Medicare. Concerns are about staying alive and what kind of home and property damage you will have. Your situation may be the most-stressful event in your life. When a disaster like the California wildfires or Hurricane Dorian hits, your survival is most important.
Medicare understands this.
For some disasters, like a hurricane or wildfires, the Secretary of Health and Human Services may declare a Public Health Emergency (PHE), which provides waivers for 90 days. In Hurricane Dorian, Medicare made accommodations in the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In those states, providers have an extension on the time allowed to enroll providers or request appeals.
As a patient, you may wonder if Medicare will pay if you see another doctor outside of the disaster area or another sate to receive the care you need. Medicare/Railroad Medicare beneficiaries can receive services anywhere in the United States. The services must be medically necessary and a covered Medicare benefit.
Another concern when a disaster hits is what happens if you lose your Medicare card. If you’ve lost your card (and can’t remember the number) but need to see a doctor or other healthcare provider in an affected area before you receive a replacement card, Medicare advises providers to hold their claims until you receive your new card. It is your responsibility to inform the provider of your new Medicare number. If you need emergency care and do not have your Medicare card or know the number, providers should try to obtain your Medicare number from you or your family. If that fails to be successful, your provider can call Railroad Medicare to request the Medicare number. This should be a rare incidence.
If you have questions or need to obtain a replacement Medicare card, you can call our Beneficiary Customer Service Center at 800-833-4455, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET to order a new one. For the hearing impaired, call TTY/TDD at 877-566-3572. You may also call the Railroad Retirement Board at 877-772-5772.
The following health and wellness resources are available to those impacted by Hurricane Michael.
United Behavioral Health/Optum: 1-866-342-6892 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
An emotional support hotline is available, free of charge, regardless of behavioral health plan membership. It provides access to specially-trained mental health specialists.
Accredo and Express Scripts: 1-800-842-0070 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, express-scripts.com
If you are affected by the hurricane and need your medicine, we can help. If you need an emergency fill, login to express-scripts.com and go to Find a Pharmacy to locate a nearby network pharmacy. Then, call the pharmacy to check if it is open. If your ID card is unavailable, call the number above for assistance, and to locate a nearby network pharmacy. Deliveries might be delayed into affected areas.
EyeMed: 1-866-652-0018 (toll-free) Mon-Sat 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. ET; Sun 8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET
If you’ve lost, broken or damaged your eyewear, emergency (temporary) replacement glasses can be sent to you, at no cost, with overnight shipping (must call by 2:30 p.m. ET for same-day processing). Or, if you prefer to order permanent replacement glasses or contacts, expedited shipping is available.
Medical care and more:
Teladoc: 1-855-764-1727 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or for more information visit teladoc.com/michael/
Telemedicine services are available to any resident of an evacuation zone, regardless of health plan membership. Individuals can request a call from a doctor, free of charge, to handle non-emergency medical problems via specific contact information above.
Railroad HEALTHLINK: 1-866-735-5685 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free telephone access to registered nurses is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regardless of health plan membership.
Aetna: 1-833-327-2386 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Help finding care, behavioral health support, and assistance with finding available shelters and government resources, and other services are available through Aetna’s Resources for Living, regardless of health plan membership to people in affected areas.
Highmark/Blue Cross Blue Shield: 1-866-267-3320 (toll free) Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET
For those who reside in areas where States of Emergency have been declared, waivers have been put in place for Medical Authorization Requirements, Claims Timely Filing, and Paying Out-of-Network Claims as In-Network.
UnitedHealthcare: 1-866-735-5685 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free telephone access to registered nurses is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regardless of health plan membership. Help finding health care services is available through the toll-free phone number, and in-network rates will be available even if members are not able to see an in-network provider.
HealthAdvocate: 1-866-799-2690 (toll-free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Experts are available to help: locate in-network providers in a new area, find facilities that will be able to provide temporary assistance, transfer medical records and prescriptions, get a short supply of medications if prescriptions have been lost, coordinate care between insurance company and medical providers, answer benefit and treatment questions and help with elderly parents.
Aetna Dental: 1-877-238-6200 (toll-free) Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-6 p.m. ET
Members affected by the hurricane who need care or other assistance can access Aetna.
When a natural disaster, extreme weather or other emergency occurs that affects providers and the Medicare beneficiaries that they serve, special emergency-related policies and procedures may be implemented.
The process begins when a governor of an affected state requests assistance. This is done if the event is beyond the combined response abilities of the state and local governments. From this request, the President of the United States can declare a Public Health Emergency (PHE), using the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
Under Section 1135 or 1812(f) of the Social Security Act, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) can issue ‘blanket waivers’ for providers and suppliers when it comes to services that are provided by skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies and critical access hospitals. Measures are in place to assist with durable medical equipment and supplies, as well as quality reporting, extending the appeals time limit, and getting replacement prescription refills.
As an example in an impacted area, when a waiver is granted for submitting appeal requests (which normally would need to be filed 120 days from the date of the claim denial notification), an appeal may be filed after the 120 days based on CMS guidance.
The following are the most recent hurricane-related PHE’s for which HHS has authorized waivers:
Hurricane Michael – Florida (at the time of writing this article)
Hurricane Florence – North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia
Hurricane Maria – Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Hurricane Nate – Louisiana and Mississippi
Hurricane Irma – Florida, Georgia and South Carolina
Hurricane Harvey – Texas and Louisiana
Medicare has a toll-free helpline you can use if you are in an impacted area. This Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24/7. The toll-free, multilingual and confidential crisis support service can be reached by calling 1-800-985-5990. You can also text TalkWithUs to 66746 (for Spanish, press 2 or text Hablanos to 66746) to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Hurricanes don’t discriminate in terms of destruction, and there are times when a person only has the clothes on their back – but no wallet or Medicare card to get assistance. If you lose your Medicare card, you can call our Beneficiary Customer Service Center at 800-833-4455, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET to order a new one. For the hearing impaired, call TTY/TDD at 877-566-3572. You may also call the Railroad Retirement Board at 877-772-5772.
LCA – CSXT Secretary and UTUIA Field Supervisor Chris Fly (Local 1106) is collecting goods of necessity for our union families who are in need in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
“Currently, Wilmington, N.C., in particular, is not accessible. This is where our Brothers and Sisters from SMART TD Local 1105 reside,” Fly said. “I am preparing to facilitate goods of necessity to our union family and their community, which will be collected at my home for now, depending upon the abundance of items received.”
Fly also reports that the Lumberton, N.C. area also has flooding issues and the Lumber River is still rising.
“We have a game plan to serve their need for necessities as well,” Fly said. “A lot of SMART TD Local 1011 members reside in this area.”
Fly is accepting water, canned food, diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies and hygiene items for men, women and children.
These items can be sent to:
1071 Lindsay Rd.
Nashville, NC 27856
“The response from inland communities has been awesome, I may have to rent a U-Haul due to the abundance of necessities donated,” Fly said. “Mainly, we need prayers that the water will subside so assistance can get in. Currently, they are still isolated by the flood waters.”
N.C. State Legislative Director Ron Ingerick is also accepting donations for those affected by the hurricane. So far, Ingerick has reported that two members have lost everything in the flood. He asks that members keep Ryan Forinash (Local 1105) from Wilmington, and Vice Local Chairperson Jeff Hunt (Local 1011) from Lumberton, and their families in your prayers.
SMART TD has activated the disaster relief fund and is collecting monetary donations for members affected. All donations to the fund are used solely for the benefit of TD members who are impacted by natural disasters.
UTUIA President Kenneth Laugel announced Wednesday that his organization was giving $5,000 to relief efforts for members affected by the storm.
“The devastating flooding and the resulting damage in the Carolinas and particularly North Carolina continues to grow as a result of the aftermath from Hurricane Florence,” Laugel said. “It is our hope and desire that this will serve to ease the burden of those who are suffering.”
To donate, checks can be made payable to ‘SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund‘ and can be sent to:
SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund
24950 Country Club Blvd.
North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333
Donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Union Plus is offering disaster relief grants of $500 to union members who have been affected by Hurricane Irma.
To be eligible to receive a grant you must be a participant in one of these Union Plus programs: Union Plus credit card program, Union Plus life insurance, accidental death insurance, Union Plus auto insurance or the Union Plus mortgage program. Other qualifications may apply.
Dear Members of the SMART Transportation Division:
The catastrophic storm damage and flood waters caused by Hurricane Harvey and Irma have devastated Texas and Florida with loss of life and immeasurable destruction of property.
Some of those affected by the devastation are our Brothers and Sisters of SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) who live in and near the areas affected. The silver lining is, the generosity of citizens around the country who are giving what they can to help those affected to reclaim their lives.
We are asking the SMART TD family to rise to the call and give what you can, so that the daunting task of starting over and rebuilding can begin. Your generous donation will help lessen the struggle and bring real hope and relief to our SMART TD members who are suffering from this great loss. SMART TD will administer donations sent to the UTU Disaster Relief Fund.
Contributions may be sent and made payable to:
UTU Disaster Relief Fund 24950 Country Club Blvd.
North Olmsted, OH 44070-5333
Please call the Transportation Division office at 216-228-9400 referencing Disaster Relief.
President, SMART Transportation Division
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.