Public Health Emergency Status Clears Some Red Tape Requirements

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thursday night, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared a public health emergency for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on the East Coast Monday evening. This action will enable the Secretary to ensure that beneficiaries of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) continue to receive needed services as New Jersey communities respond and recover from the storm.

The Secretary declared the public health emergency under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act. When such a declaration is in effect, HHS may waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP requirements under section 1135 of the Social Security Act in areas where there have been declarations of an emergency or disaster under the Stafford Act. Waiver requests can be submitted through Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regional offices.

Under section 1135, HHS may permit affected health care facilities in New Jersey to adjust certain operating procedures temporarily while continuing to receive reimbursements under Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. For example, hospitals and nursing homes can quickly be permitted to expand their certified bed capacity to better serve those impacted by the disaster.

HHS agencies are working with state agencies and regional networks to respond to the public health, medical and human services needs of impacted communities. A 50-person Disaster Medical Assistance Team from Tennessee is providing care for residents in a shelter in Monmouth County and additional teams are available if needed in other impacted areas of the state.

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