Providers, payers adjust to keep services available for Harvey victims
- Hospitals and government agencies are continuing their efforts to provide healthcare to southeast Texas residents affected by flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey.
- Many clinics remained closed Tuesday and hospitals were postponing elective surgeries. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston was heavily affected. There are no plans to evacuate, but the hospital is closed to patient appointments and surgeries at least through Wednesday.
- In an investor note from Jeffries released Monday, analysts said the catastrophic flooding will create a notable disruption for hospitals and other providers in the affected areas. They predict patient volumes will continue to drag after flood waters recede and healthcare services return to normal, because people will delay such matters as they attempt to repair and rebuild their homes and communities.
Houston-area hospitals began seeing trouble from Hurricane Harvey on Sunday. While they had prepared for natural disaster, the storm’s unprecedented rainfall forced at least a dozen facilities to evacuate. Healthcare organizations in the affected areas are focused on emergency care and treatment for people who require life-maintaining equipment.
Providers aren't the only ones making adjustments. The Texas Department of Insurance is asking health insurance companies not to deny or assess penalties for out-of-network claims from healthcare services sought during the state-declared emergency and to delay their filing deadlines.
The CMS is waiving some documentation requirements so that displaced residents can receive treatment without trying to find specific patient records. HHS also said some HIPAA regulations will be waived during the emergency, including the requirement to obtain a patient’s permission before speaking to family members or friends involved in the patient’s care. HHS has declared public health emergencies in both Texas and Louisiana, where the storm made a second landfall Wednesday morning.
Cigna said it is lifting prescription refill restrictions and some prior authorization requirements for customers affected by the storm.
Telehealth companies are also stepping up to make their services available. Teladoc is offering to help residents in Texas and Louisiana evacuation zones connect with a doctor by phone for free. MDLive and Doctor on Demand said all people directly affected by the severe weather can have free phone or video care sessions through next week.
Dr. Latisha Rowe, founder of telemedicine company Rowe Doctors, wrote in a blog post Monday that virtual visits can help people who are stranded or displaced determine the severity of a condition. A doctor can determine whether a woman who is pregnant or a person with chest pains, shortness of breath, or cuts and bruises needs immediate transportation to a location where they can receive emergency care. If not, the clinician can instruct people how to manage their symptoms until they are able to get treatment. Doctors can also use virtual visits to authorize needed prescription refills.
While efforts now are focused on keeping people safe, there is no denying the closures, delays and other effects of the massive storm will have an economic impact on providers in the region. The analysts from Jeffries noted HCA has nearly 11% of its beds in Houston and Corpus Christi, which were both squarely in the path of the storm. CVH also has two hospitals in heavily affected areas. About 10% of Tenet’s beds are in San Antonio, but that city was minimally disrupted.
- HHS Hurricane Harvey & HIPAA Bulletin: Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties During a Declared Emergency
- Texas Department of Insurance Re: Hurricane Harvey – Preauthorized Health Care, Referrals, Notification of Hospital Admissions, and Medical Necessity Reviews
- Healthcare Dive Southeast Texas hospitals scrambling to withstand Hurricane Harvey
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