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E&C Dems Urge CMS to Protect Medicaid Coverage for Hurricane Victims

Oct 12, 2017
Press Release
In Letter to Verma, Dems Urge Medicaid Flexibilities Similar to Katrina Response

Energy and Commerce Committee Democratic leaders sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today urging immediate action to provide both short- and long-term flexibilities to the Medicaid programs servicing communities’ devastated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), and Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL).

The request comes after a meeting Pallone held with Administrator Verma earlier this week, in which she acknowledged that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will not be able to maintain their share of the costs for Medicaid. In their letter, the three Democratic Committee leaders wrote that they are committed to making additional Medicaid funding and authorities needed for disaster relief available to CMS.     

“In the aftermath of these hurricanes many Americans have found themselves without a home and without easy access to food, water, or medical care,” the members wrote to Verma.  “Due to these events, a substantial coordinated state and federal disaster response is necessary.  We are pleased to see that CMS has agreed to extend both the Medicare and Marketplace open enrollment periods for individuals impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  However, it is imperative that similar short term and long term flexibilities such as this should be considered in the Medicaid program.”

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the Bush Administration utilized Medicaid to provide health care to low income victims of the hurricane and eased administrative burdens for beneficiaries and providers. The Democrats are urging Administrator Verma to undertake similar actions to protect the health and lives of Americans impacted by these historic storms.  The Democrats are also calling for additional federal Medicaid financing.

As part of their request, the Democrats are requesting answers to a series of questions including:

  • How will CMS work with states and territories to assess and address increased uncompensated care?
  • Does CMS intend to provide guidance offering a streamlined eligibility pathway for states or territories receiving evacuees to ensure continued coverage, as the Bush Administration did in 2005? 
  • What steps are CMS, states, and territories taking to ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries who have been evacuated are receiving the medications and treatment they need while they are displaced and that states and providers are appropriately reimbursed for providing such treatment to evacuees?
  • How can Congress assist CMS in ensuring that those impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria receive all the health care services they need in the Medicaid program?

A copy of the letter is available here.