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.
Hurricane Florence and its resulting floods have left behind substantial destruction in North and South Carolina, leading to the loss of life and millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage to property in the Mid-Atlantic region and inland.
Some of those affected by the devastation include our Brothers and Sisters of SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) who live in the region. This disaster adds a tremendous burden to their lives and the amount of loss that they now must cope with is unimaginable. The silver lining is, and will continue to be, the generosity of citizens around the country who are giving what they can to help those affected to help overcome the effects of this disaster and 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 through this disaster.
Please make your donation to the SMART TD Disaster Relief Fund. All donations to the fund are used solely for the benefit of TD members who are impacted by natural disasters, and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
The United Transportation Union Insurance Association (UTUIA) asks those members who are experiencing financial or other difficulties in paying premiums due to Hurricane Harvey, to please call the UTUIA to discuss options that may be available.
The UTUIA may be reached at 216-228-9400 or toll-free 800-558-8842.