HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declares public health emergency and ASPR deploys personnel to Florida to respond to Hurricane Idalia

Sample article from our Health Care Sector

August 31, 2023 (press release) –

Emergency response personnel will augment state and local response efforts as part of President Biden’s whole-of-government effort to support impacted communities

Today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a Public Health Emergency (PHE) for the state of Florida to address the health impacts of Hurricane Idalia and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) deployed approximately 68 emergency response personnel to the state. At President Biden’s direction, HHS is aiding impacted communities through the Administration’s whole-of-government response effort.

The declaration follows President Biden’s emergency declaration and gives the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

“We will do everything in our power to assist Florida officials with responding to the health impacts of Hurricane Idalia,” said Secretary Becerra. “At President Biden’s direction, we are working closely with state and local health authorities, as well as our partners across the federal government, and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”

ASPR deployed approximately 68 medical providers and disaster management professionals to Florida to address the potential health impacts of Hurricane Idalia. This includes 32 members of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). ASPR stands ready to deploy additional personnel as needed and is working closely with other states that may be impacted by the storm’s trajectory.

“Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida with dangerous storm surge and hurricane-force winds,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell. “ASPR has deployed highly trained personnel as part of the combined federal and state response to ease the burden on local health systems during this difficult time, and we will closely monitor for additional needs as the storm evolves.”

The NDMS personnel currently deployed to support the hurricane response come from around the country, including responders from New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Maryland, New Mexico, California, New Hampshire, and Maine. These teams will rapidly assist with health care facility assessments, ensure that emergency vehicles are resupplied with life-saving medications, and provide clinical services to augment local health systems if needed. 

In addition to the NDMS personnel, ASPR deployed a 15-person incident management team, Regional Emergency Coordinators, Public Health Service officers, and logistics staff to work in collaboration with FEMA, Florida health authorities, and emergency response officials.

In declaring the public health emergency and authorizing flexibilities for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, Secretary Becerra acted within his authority under the Public Health Service Act and Social Security Act. These actions and flexibilities are retroactive to August 27, 2023.

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