CMS announced recently after severe winter storms affected Texas that support efforts are in progress following the Texas PHE, retroactive to February 11, 2021. CMS has been working to ensure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities can maintain operations and provide care to patients despite any effects of the winter storm.
The following are key actions that CMS has taken in response to the Texas PHE:
Waivers: Many Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP requirements had already been waived due to the pandemic, and CMS will consider other requests from providers for Texas healthcare facilities.
Dialysis: As many dialysis facilities were impacted, CMS is assisting patients in obtaining access to life-saving services, through supporting the use of generators and alternative water supplies, for example. Patients are encouraged to be prepared with an emergency supply kit, which includes medical information.
Medicare: CMS is ensuring access to care in Medicare Advantage and Part D, as Medicare Advantage Organizations are required to provide services to beneficiaries in areas affected by the storm. Parts A and B and supplemental Part C benefits can be provided as non-contracted facilities as specified as requirements for gatekeeper referrals are waived in full. Pharmacy access is encouraged, as well.
Enrollment: The Federal Health Insurance Exchange is offering a special enrollment period (SEP), open now through May 15, 2021, on HealthCare.gov. Those who were eligible for another SEP during the FEMA-declared emergency period could also qualify for an additional SEP to obtain coverage.
Medical Supplies: Medicare beneficiaries who were unable to select a plan during the emergency will have up to two months following the PHE. Medical equipment and necessary supplies will also be replaced if they were lost or damaged during the PHE. Medicare beneficiaries should contact 1-800-MEDICARE for assistance.
COVID-19 Waivers: In addition, there are waivers already available to healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which remain available for providers in Texas who were affected by the winter storm.
Medicaid and CHIP Toolkit: CMS is providing technical assistance to Texas as requested to access resources for Medicaid beneficiaries. This Toolkit assists beneficiaries in connecting to helpful resources during the PHE which aids in disaster preparation. CMS is working to ensure that Texas Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries are provided access to care following the winter storm disaster.
Nursing Homes: CMS anticipates that nursing home providers will maintain accurate reporting of COVID-19 cases to the NHSN during the PHE, even though CMS will not require civil money penalties attending non-reporting during the PHE through March 4, 2021 as many nursing home residents were displaced during power and water outages.
3-Day Prior Hospitalization: CMS has issued a separate waiver regarding the statutory requirement of a 3-day prior inpatient stay for coverage of a SNF Part A hospitalization, which provides emergency coverage of SNF services with no qualifying inpatient hospitalization for individuals who were displaced or affected by the PHE.
Emergency Preparedness: As providers and supplies should have emergency preparedness programs in place, CMS has developed webinars on the requirements, covering topics including backup power supply, 1135 waivers, best practices, lessons learned from previous disasters, and more resources. CMS also offers on their website a FAQ list and information on national emergency preparedness to aid providers in developing effective emergency preparations and toolkits to maintain compliance with EP rules.
CMS continues to work with the geographic areas that were impacted by the recent winter storms. Beneficiaries and healthcare providers who have been affected are encouraged to seek assistance by visiting www.cms.gov/emergency.
For more information, visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-offers-comprehensive-support-state-texas-combat-winter-storm