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Health Care Reform

CMS Announces Special Enrollment Periods

CMS Announces Special Enrollment Periods for Americans Impacted by Recent Hurricanes. Agency provides special open enrollment periods for 2017 Medicare and Exchange coverage.

As a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. This important step gives these individuals and families who have been impacted by the hurricanes the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain access to health coverage on the Exchange immediately if eligible for a special enrollment period.

“The lives of millions of Americans have been disrupted and impacted in some way by recent hurricanes,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “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. We remain committed to doing all we can to help support the areas and individuals affected by these historic and catastrophic hurricanes.”

CMS established the following special enrollment periods to support individuals impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria: 

  • Medicare special enrollment period:  This special enrollment period will allow individuals affected by these hurricanes to enroll, dis-enroll or switch Medicare health or prescription drug plans. It is available at the start of the incident period and runs through the end of the calendar year. Individuals may contact 1-800-MEDICARE to request enrollment using this special enrollment opportunity. 
  • Federal Health Insurance Exchange special enrollment period:  CMS created this special enrollment period for certain individuals impacted by these hurricanes who need to enroll in a 2017plan through the Exchange or make changes to their existing 2017 plan. This special enrollment period will apply to individuals who experienced a special enrollment period qualifying event between 60 days prior to the start date of the incident period and December 31, 2017, but were unable to complete the application, plan selection, and enrollment process due to a hurricane-related weather event in 2017. This special enrollment period will allow individuals impacted by the storms to select a new 2017 Exchange plan or make changes to their existing plan at any time through December, 31, 2017. Individuals affected by the storms may contact the Exchange Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to enroll in a plan.

In addition to the special enrollment periods for the 2017, individuals who reside in or move from areas affected by a hurricane in 2017 will be eligible for a special enrollment period that extends the 2018 Annual Open Enrollment Period through December 31, 2017.  These individuals may contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to request enrollment using this special enrollment period after December 15, 2017.  

These special enrollment opportunities are in addition to the Medicare and Exchange annual Open Enrollment Periods this fall and any other enrollment period for which the individual may be eligible.  CMS will continue to examine the circumstances in the areas affected by hurricanes and will consider taking action that reaches beyond December 31, 2017, if needed.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared public health emergencies in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – areas all impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. With the public health emergencies in effect, CMS has temporarily waived or modified certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements to provide healthcare providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility they need so they can focus on the health and safety of those impacted by the hurricanes.

For more information on special enrollment periods for Medicare, visit:

General guidance: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/Disaster-Memo-Medicare-SEP.pdf

Beneficiary Information: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/MedicareBeneficiaryDisasterEnrollmentQsandAs.pdf

Provider Access: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/Disaster-Provider-Access.pdf

For more information on special enrollment periods for the Health Insurance Exchange, visit:  https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Regulations-and-Guidance/Downloads/2017-Hurricane-Disasters-Guidance.pdf

The agency continues to update its emergency page (www.cms.gov/emergency) with important information on its efforts to support hurricane response and recovery efforts.

For information regarding HHS hurricane response activities, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/news.