U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra today declared a Public Health Emergency for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico due to the flooding impact of Hurricane Fiona. The declaration follows President Biden’s disaster 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 officials in Puerto Rico with responding to the impact of Hurricane Fiona,” said Secretary Becerra. “We are working closely with territory health authorities and our federal partners and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”
HHS has deployed a 15-person Health and Medical Task Force from its National Disaster Medical System and a 10-person incident management team to Puerto Rico. These teams – both part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) – are working with FEMA, ASPR Regional Emergency Coordinators (RECs), and Puerto Rico health authorities and emergency response officials to determine what, if any, additional federal public health and medical resources can be brought to bear to aid the territory in responding to the hurricane.
Staff from HHS’ National Disaster Medical System, 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.
Public health authorities in Puerto Rico are using data available through the HHS emPOWER program, a partnership between ASPR and CMS, to support emergency planning and response public health outreach 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 17, 2022.
Additional information regarding Public Health Emergency declarations can be found at https://aspr.hhs.gov/legal/PHE/Pages/default.aspx.