HHS Secretary Becerra Declares Public Health Emergency for Florida in Response to Hurricane Ian

National Disaster Medical System personnel and resources pre-deployed to support health response

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra today declared a Public Health Emergency for the state of Florida to address health impacts as the state prepares for Hurricane Ian. The declaration follows President Biden’s emergency declaration and gives the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) beneficiaries and their health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.

“We will do all we can to assist Florida officials with responding to the health impacts of Hurricane Ian,” said Secretary Becerra. “We are working closely with state, local, and tribal health authorities, as well as our federal partners, and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”

HHS has pre-positioned two 15-person Health and Medical Task Force teams from its National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), a 13-person incident management team, and two pharmacists to assist with the response in Florida. These teams – both part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) – are working with FEMA, ASPR Regional Emergency Coordinators (RECs), and Florida health authorities and emergency response officials to determine what, if any, additional federal public health and medical resources may need to be deployed to aid in responding to the hurricane. Additional staff from NDMS, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are prepared to provide federal medical care and public health support if needed.

“We have pre-positioned dozens of medical responders and incident management professionals, along with caches of medical supplies, as part of the combined federal, state, and local response to Hurricane Ian,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell. “These teams are highly trained and ready to respond if, when, and where they may be needed following the storm.” 

Public health authorities in Florida are using data available through the HHS emPOWER program, a partnership between ASPR and CMS, to support emergency planning and response public health activities. The program provides valuable information on the number of Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electricity-dependent durable medical equipment and certain healthcare services, such as dialysis, oxygen tank, or home health, to help anticipate, plan for, and respond to the needs of at-risk citizens in potentially impacted areas.

In declaring the public health emergency and authorizing flexibilities for CMS beneficiaries, Secretary Becerra acted within his authority under the Public Health Service Act and Social Security Act. These actions and flexibilities are retroactive to September 23, 2022.

Additional information regarding Public Health Emergency declarations can be found at https://aspr.hhs.gov/legal/PHE/Pages/default.aspx.

Originally published at https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/09/26/hhs-secretary-becerra-declares-public-health-emergency-for-florida-in-response-to-hurricane-ian.html

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