Hurricanes Harvey, Irma trigger CMS public health emergency policies in Texas, Louisiana, Florida

September 11, 2017
Medicare Web

In a series of press releases, CMS announced certain public health emergency policies are in effect for the parts of Texas and Louisiana hit by Hurricane Harvey and the parts of Florida affected by Hurricane Irma.

Tom Price, MD, secretary of HHS, declared a public health emergency in Texas and Louisiana on August 26 and declared a public health emergency in Florida effective September 9, a move which allows CMS to issue blanket waivers in impacted areas to prevent gaps in access to care for affected beneficiaries. An updated list of approved blanket waivers for each state can be found here.    

CMS is also granting exceptions under certain quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs. The agency will grant 31-day extensions to the September 1 deadline for applications for the Medicare Geographic Classification Review Board in Texas and for applications for low-volume hospital status and sole community hospital status in Texas and Louisiana.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued ICD-10-CM coding advice for encounters in the aftermath of a hurricane. The release includes guidance on:

  • Sequencing of external causes of morbidity codes
  • Use of external cause of morbidity codes
  • Use of Z codes following a hurricane

Healthcare professionals in affected areas should use condition code -DR (disaster related) and modifier -CR (catastrophe/disaster related) on claims for items and services where Medicare payment is conditional on the presence of a formal waiver. CMS provides detailed instructions on the use of -DR/-CR in Change Request 6451.

CMS will continue to update healthcare professionals on further actions in response to the hurricanes here