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.
The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is reminding rail employees out of work due to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath that they may qualify for unemployment benefits. To determine eligibility or file claims for benefits, affected railroaders should call the RRB’s toll-free telephone number (1-877-772-5772) or visit its website at www.rrb.gov. Rail workers who are out of work and without Internet or regular mail service may temporarily claim benefits by calling the RRB’s toll-free number until services are restored.
In order to file an application for benefits online via the website, an individual must have an Internet Services Account with the agency. For security purposes, first-time users must obtain a unique password, which they can do by clicking on the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in the Benefit Online Services login section of the www.rrb.gov home page.
Individuals who have already established an Internet Services Account and password can go online to file applications and claims for biweekly unemployment benefits, as well as conduct other business with the RRB over the Internet. For rail workers without power or Internet access, the RRB encourages them to call the agency toll-free at 1-877-772-5772.
Claimants can also find the address of the RRB office servicing their area and get information about their claims and benefit payments by calling this toll-free number. Most RRB offices are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, except on Federal holidays. Field office locations can also be found online at www.rrb.gov.
Railroad unemployment benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment over four in 14-day registration periods. The maximum daily benefit rate is currently $72. However, as a result of sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011, unemployment benefits are reduced by 6.9 percent through September 30, 2017, so the maximum benefit in a two-week period is $670.32. Also, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment in excess of seven, rather than four, which basically creates a one-week waiting period.
To qualify for normal railroad unemployment benefits in the benefit year that began July 1, 2017, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,673.50 in calendar year 2016, counting no more than $1,455 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2016 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in that year.
Under certain conditions, employees with at least 10 years of service who do not qualify on the basis of their 2016 earnings may still be able to receive benefits. For example, employees who received normal benefits in the benefit year that ended June 30, 2017, might still be eligible for extended benefits. In addition, 10-year employees may be eligible for accelerated benefits if they had rail earnings of at least $3,637.50 in 2017, not counting earnings of more than $1,455 a month.