Sen. Bill Nelson today sent the following letter urging the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to work with the state of Florida to ensure children maintain access to their healthcare in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Following is text of the letter sent to CMS Administrator Verma. A pdf copy is available here.
October 12, 2017
The Honorable Seema Verma
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 445-G
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Administrator Verma,
I am writing to urge you to work with the state of Florida to issue guidance so Floridians can maintain access to health care and services as they recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Following Hurricane Harvey, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved Texas’ request to temporarily waive the co-payments and enrollment fees for any children or families enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) who reside in FEMA-declared disaster counties.
In Florida, the payment deadline for KidCare, Florida’s CHIP program, was extended only until October 31, 2017, but it is my understanding that coverage is cancelled for children until the payment is received. Simply delaying premium payments fails to take into consideration the gravity of any hardships in the wake of Hurricane Irma and forces Florida families to make two premium payments in a single month.
Moreover, CMS also approved a six-month extension of Medicaid and CHIP benefits for Texans residing in FEMA-declared disaster counties. In Florida, the deadline to complete Medicaid eligibility recertification has been extended by one month.
The steps taken in Texas ensure that no one is being denied medical care because of financial strain brought on by the hurricane. These same policies should apply to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma as they have during past natural disasters. For example, in 2005, then-Governor Bush waived premium payments for CHIP when the state was hit by four hurricanes.
For these reasons, I am asking CMS to issue guidance so the state is aware of and will ask the federal government to waive Florida KidCare co-payments and enrollment fees through November 2017, at a minimum, and extend the Medicaid eligibility certification period.
KidCare provides critical health services to about 400,000 children in Florida, some of whom have special health care needs. Moreover, nearly four million Floridians rely on Medicaid. Many of these families have encountered unexpected financial stress, including lost wages or homes, in the wake of Hurricane Irma—they shouldn’t have to also worry about their health coverage as they try to rebuild.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working together to find ways to help Floridians as we recover from Hurricane Irma.