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CMS Strengthens Federal Support to Alaska Following Earthquake

On December 6, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced that the agency has taken steps and is monitoring conditions in support of Alaska residents recovering from damage of the recent 7.0 earthquake that struck north of the city of Anchorage on Friday, November 30. On December 3, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency (PHE) in areas of Alaska retroactive to Nov. 30, 2018. The PHE allows CMS to waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements if necessary to provide health services.

The agency will take the following steps to support the state of Alaska and those residents impacted by the earthquake: 

  • Waivers for Skilled Nursing Facilities and Assistance for Hospitals and other Healthcare Facilities: CMS will issue a blanket Skilled Nursing Facility waiver, described on the website below; and the Regional Office will provide numerous technical assistance responses to the state, and providers on specific types of CMS and other HHS program flexibilities that are available with and without waivers. These program flexibilities and waivers work to provide continued access to care for beneficiaries. For more information on the waivers CMS will grant, visit https://www.cms.gov/Emergency.
  • Special Enrollment Opportunities for Individuals Impacted by the Alaska Earthquake and Medicare Flexibilities: CMS has made special enrollment periods available for certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange and all Medicare beneficiaries affected by the Alaska earthquake. This gives people impacted by the earthquake the opportunity to gain access to health coverage on the Exchange or to add, drop, or change their Medicare health and prescription drug plan if they are unable to make an election during the fall open enrollment period or another election period for which they are eligible. To request this SEP for Exchange coverage, individuals impacted by the earthquake must contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 or TTY at 1-855-889-4325 and indicate that they were unable to enroll during Open Enrollment due to the earthquake. To request the SEP for Medicare, individuals can contact the plan they wish to enroll, visit Medicare.gov, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

For more information on the special enrollment periods, visit:

When a public health emergency is in effect, Medicare Advantage Organizations in affected areas are required to waive prior authorization and other gatekeeper requirements and to allow care to be provided by non-contracted providers and facilities. In addition, Part D plan sponsors are expected to lift certain limits for drug benefits.

  • Dialysis Care: Dialysis patients who are unable to receive dialysis services at their usual facility and who need assistance to locate a facility where they can be dialyzed, should call the Northwest Renal Network (NW 16) Patient Hotline (800) 262-1514 for assistance. The following large dialysis organization hotline number is also available for patients: Fresenius Kidney Care Emergency Hotline: (800) 626-1297.
  • Toolkit for Disaster Preparedness State Medicaid Agencies: CMS developed an inventory of Medicaid and CHIP flexibilities and authorities available to states in the event of a disaster. For more information and to access the toolkit, visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/disaster-response-toolkit/index.html.
  • Provider Enrollment: CMS will temporarily waive and streamline provider enrollment requirements when enrolling providers to prevent a disruption in services to Medicaid.
CMS encourages people with federal benefits and providers and suppliers of healthcare equipment and services that have been impacted by the Alaska earthquake to seek help by visiting CMS’ emergency webpage at www.cms.gov/emergency.

Posted 12/6/2018