HHS Secretary, Tom Price, has declared a public health emergency in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina as Hurricane Irma continues its track toward the US mainland. In addition, he has taken action that gives HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
Price said, “Hurricane Irma has proven to be highly destructive and poses a significant threat to the health and safety of all Americans in its path. HHS has pre-positioned assets and personnel who can rapidly deploy to assist local responses in those states to Hurricane Irma, and this declaration will help ensure that access to care is maintained for those with Medicare and Medicaid.”
Secretary Price declared public health emergencies for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday. He also spoke with state and territory governors in the path of the hurricane to update them on all HHS resources available to help them keep their residents healthy.
In addition to increasing the flexibilities in how CMS helps beneficiaries in the path of Hurricane Irma, HHS has deployed more than 230 personnel to support state and local authorities in affected areas plan and respond to local communities’ medical needs. Additional HHS staff is on standby to assist in the response.
The declarations of public health emergencies due to Hurricane Irma follow similar public health emergency declarations for Texas and Louisiana that Secretary Price signed to help residents affected by Hurricane Harvey. Secretary Price acted under his authority in the Public Health Service Act and Social Security Act.
These actions and flexibilities are effective retroactively to Sept. 7, 2017, for Georgia and Sept. 6, 2017, for South Carolina.