In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal agencies have released several resources to help health care providers prepare for and respond to disasters.

CDC Resources

Providers seeking information about what to do before, during, or after a hurricane should visit CDC’s disaster website. The site offers tips for staying safe, details on the federal response, and other resources.

In addition, providers should use CDC’s health care preparedness toolbox, which contains a community planning framework and tools for hospitals to evaluate the disaster readiness of each of their departments.

CMS Guidance

CMS is granting exceptions under certain Medicare quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs to hospitals and other health care facilities in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Hospitals located in one of the Texas counties or Louisiana parishes designated as a major disaster county by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be granted exceptions without submitting an extraordinary circumstances request. The scope and duration of the exception is described in a memo released on Aug. 31. CMS will update the list of affected counties and parishes in the memo in accordance with FEMA.

CMS also announced new guidance for fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries who lost or experienced damage to their durable medical equipment as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The guidance temporarily eases requirements for such patients as they seek to replace their equipment.

In addition, CMS is urging states acting as “host” to individuals displaced by Hurricane Harvey to contact the Texas Medicaid & Healthcare Partnership with health care–related questions about evacuees. Providers should contact Yvonne Olivo at 512.506.6541 or Yvonne.olivo@tmhp.com with questions on:

  • accessing Texas’ eligibility system;
  • individuals’ eligibility status; and
  • the temporary expedited provider enrollment process established in response to the disaster event.

HIPAA Compliance

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) encourages covered entities to familiarize themselves with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA’s) requirements related to planning and security during natural disasters.

The OCR website includes an interactive decision tool to assist personnel as they determine how to access and share information during a disaster, as well as information on HIPAA’s Security Rule during disasters.

OCR also released guidance for entities covered by HIPAA regulations that are specifically related to Hurricane Harvey.

Contact Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.