After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the storm displaced thousands of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida residents. Many of them had already been enrolled in Medicaid and many others who were left jobless and without their employer health insurance found themselves in need of health coverage. The need was exacerbated by the trauma of the hurricane, which caused many people to suffer significant medical and mental health issues. In response, between September 2005 and March 2006, CMS approved 32 Katrina section 1115 demonstrations that extended health coverage to an estimated 118,602 individuals. These demonstrations allowed states to provide temporary eligibility for specified Katrina evacuees so that they could obtain Medicaid services in a host state. Many states made it easier for eligible evacuees to enroll by eliminating documentation requirements and others offered services not otherwise available, such as mental health counseling.
In 2008, when Iowa was ravaged by tornadoes and flooding, the disaster forced thousands of individuals from their homes. The Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency, and CMS approved a Medicaid demonstration enabling Iowans stricken by the disaster to keep their Medicaid for three extra months, to give them time to locate the needed documents for renewing coverage. Additionally, the demonstration permitted the state to grant hardship exemptions to people who lived in affected areas and were unable to pay premiums. In addition, because many state agency staff and their families were also struggling as a result of the disaster, the state deployed staff from unaffected counties to step in and help their co-workers attend to higher-than-normal caseloads.
Learn more about disaster preparedness and the steps HHS takes to ensure that individuals in declared disaster areas can get the health care they need under Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare.
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