Fire-Battered California Plans Evacuation for Patients in At-Risk Hospitals: Medicare Special Enrollment Available

The devastation California has experienced over the past three years is more than any state could handle. How can you prepare for something so unpredictable? In 2019 alone there have been so far 200,000 people evacuated with more than 189 buildings destroyed and 90,000 buildings threatened. Millions are without power and a hundred thousand advised to evacuate. The wildfire season is disrupting hospitals and healthcare providers as well. Patients requiring evacuation are now a primary concern and planning for such evacuation isn’t that easy of a task when the right resources aren’t available.

This is the everyday reality in Northern California. When wildfires fill the air, respiratory issues also creep in making underlying conditions acute. Patients requiring insulin wonder how they can keep their medication cold and their sugar levels stable. Also, cellphone towers falter and there isn’t a generator to backup.  Roads are closed, and it’s just hard to communicate with patients amid such chaos.

Shelters where doctors and many others do volunteer work are filled with individuals struggling physically, socially, and economically. Supplies are donated, but their mental, social, and medical health is quickly deteriorating. The health care system has been warned it may face even greater challenges. With lack of food, unsafe physical environment, and social isolation, nobody knows what these hospitals are going to be like or if they will go in flames too. Some patients are suffering from conditions that demand urgent medical response, but there is no cure with the tools doctors and care providers currently have.

Climate change can’t be addressed by individuals alone. It’s a task society collectively must undertake. Physicians and many other professionals, as well as volunteers, are risking their lives to save patients, but more people should join. Some measures must be taken such as improving infrastructures so that they meet the patient’s basic needs, providing clean water, improving air quality, and a safer environment. These are the foundation of public health and the only way to support human life.

The climate crisis is a challenge that will sooner or later affect us all. Climate change has caused an increase in wildfires in the region for the last 50 years. The annual burned area has grown by almost 500%.  Last year, for example, was the deadliest year in history with 85 people dead and the devastation – no words.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are strengthening federal support to California residents affected by wildfires. There are special enrollment opportunities available and Medicare flexibilities. Open Enrollment for Medicare ends Dec 7. However, a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) will is be available for victims of wildfires. This special enrollment period will allow beneficiaries that live in areas affected by wildfires to add, drop or change their Medicare health and medication plans.