HHS Program Aids California Fire Victims

Uninsured residents of Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties in California are eligible for no-cost replacements of critical medications that were lost or damaged by the wildfires in those three counties, thanks to the HHS Emergency Prescription Assistance Program.

Uninsured residents of Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties in California are eligible for no-cost replacements of critical medications that were lost or damaged by the wildfires in those three counties, thanks to the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. HHS announced the activation of the program Nov. 21.

"EPAP provides vital assistance to people without insurance who rely upon certain prescription medicines and equipment to protect their health after disasters," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec. "I encourage citizens in impacted areas of California who qualify for this assistance to take advantage of it."

At no cost to uninsured patients, those needing certain prescription medications during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any EPAP-participating pharmacy through Dec. 31, 2018. Most prescription drugs are covered under the program. Uninsured patients also may use EPAP to replace specific medical supplies or medical equipment, such as canes and walkers, that were damaged or lost as a direct result of the wildfires or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit to an emergency shelter.

More than 72,000 pharmacies nationwide, including more than 200 in California, participate in EPAP. The program provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, and some forms of durable medical equipment for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area, and all pharmacies in the United States are eligible to participate. Pharmacies in the California can call 888-571-8182 to be added to the program.

Uninsured California residents affected by the current wildfires can call 855-793-7470 to learn whether their medication or specific durable medical equipment is covered by EPAP and to find a participating pharmacy, or visit www.phe.gov/epap.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in California on Nov. 13, authorizing flexibilities for CMS beneficiaries and providers retroactive to Nov. 8. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has temporarily waived or modified certain Medicare and Medicaid requirements to give health care providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility needed to provide continued access to care during the wildfire emergency. In addition to issuing broad waivers, CMS can grant provider-specific requests for hospitals and other California health care facilities as needed.

HHS deployed approximately 60 medical and public health staff, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics from the National Disaster Medical System and behavioral health experts who are working alongside local professionals to provide care in shelters, as well as regional emergency coordinators and environmental health experts who are coordinating with state and local health authorities and emergency response officials. Additional personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are on alert to provide medical care or additional public health support if needed.

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