CMS Provides Special Enrollment for Those Affected by Hurricanes

Medicare and individual insurance enrollment changed for Americans affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced the creation of special enrollment periods for Americans insured through Medicare or the individual exchanges who were affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, according to a press release.

Previously, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, MD, declared public health emergencies in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands due to severe hurricane damage.

As a result of the hurricane-related devastation, the CMS is changing enrollment for these individuals to ensure they are able to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain immediate coverage through the exchanges if necessary, according to the release.

“The lives of millions of Americans have been disrupted and impacted in some way by recent hurricanes,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.


The special enrollment period for Medicare will allow beneficiaries to enroll, dis-enroll, or switch current plans. Beneficiaries will be able to do so at the start of the incident period through the end of 2017, according to the release.

Individual Insurance

The special enrollment period allows individuals affected by the hurricanes to enroll in a 2017 plan or make changes to their current plan. The CMS reports that this period applies to those who experienced an event qualifying them for special enrollment 60 days before the hurricane through the end of the year, but were unable to complete the process due to the natural disaster, according to the release.

Additionally, individuals who live in or move from areas affected by a hurricane will qualify for special enrollment that extends Open Enrollment for 2018 plans through December 31, 2017, according to the CMS.

The CMS plans to continuously re-evaluate the circumstances in areas affected by the hurricanes and will extend special enrollment, if necessary.

“Setting up special enrollment periods gives Medicare beneficiaries and individuals seeking coverage on the Federal Exchange the opportunity to access health coverage during this difficult time and when they need it the most,” Verma concluded. “We remain committed to doing all we can to help support the areas and individuals affected by these historic and catastrophic hurricanes.”

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