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HHS Secretary Becerra Declares Public Health Emergency for South Carolina in response to Hurricane Ian

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra today declared a Public Health Emergency for the state of South Carolina to address the health impacts of Hurricane Ian. 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.

"Hurricane Ian is carving a destructive path along the southeast, placing the health of millions of people at risk," said Secretary Becerra. "We are working closely with state, local and tribal health authorities to protect the health of everyone possible and save lives."

As of today, HHS had more than 300 personnel deployed and available to respond in coordination with state health officials, hospitals, and FEMA. These professionals include incident management teams and medical teams from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), both part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), and are experts in augmenting, bolstering, and providing relief to hospitals and other healthcare facilities in need.

These experts are working with FEMA, ASPR Regional Emergency Coordinators (RECs), state health authorities, and emergency response officials to determine what, if any, additional federal public health and medical resources can be deployed to aid in responding to the hurricane.

"We stand ready to assist officials in South Carolina in responding rapidly to the public health and medical impacts of this storm," said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell. "HHS has additional professionals from NDMS, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ready to provide federal medical care and public health support if needed."

HHS also has information available from the HHS emPOWER program, a partnership between ASPR and CMS, to support public health emergency planning and response 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 25, 2022.

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