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Wednesday, December 7, 2016
TENNESSEE DELEGATION REQUESTS MEDICARE ENROLLMENT EXTENSION FOR VICTIMS OF EAST TENNESSEE WILDFIRES
WASHINGTON – Today, members of the Tennessee delegation sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt to request CMS extend the open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries in Sevier County, Tennessee due to the recent wildfires.
Full text of the letter is included below and available online here.
Dear Acting Administrator Slavitt:
We are writing today to urgently request that you extend the open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries affected by the Sevier County, TN disaster. At least 14 people died and at least 134 people were injured because of fires that destroyed or damaged more than 17,000 acres and about 1,700 structures. A fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was first reported on November 23. Then on November 28, hurricane force winds spread this fire uncontrollably within a matter of fifteen minutes, and 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg and the surrounding region overnight. It is the worst fire Tennessee has seen in the last 100 years.
This entire area has been dramatically affected by this disaster. In addition to the physical damage, Tennesseans struggled with power outages and spotty cell phone service. Only in the past day or two have our constituents been allowed to return to their homes and businesses, and only within restricted hours.
These fire victims are focused on finding missing family members, recovering from injuries, discovering the extent of damage to their homes and businesses, and just trying to survive and figure out how to live the next day. They do not currently have the ability or time to examine their Medicare options by tomorrow. Their entire lives have been turned upside down, and even more people may need to change their Medicare plans than before but have not had a chance to even consider their options.
In closing, we wish to express our sincerest hope that you acknowledge the inability of our constituents to review their Medicare options in time to make needed changes during the open enrollment period, ending tomorrow December 7. We urgently request that you extend the Medicare open enrollment period for these victims by two or three more weeks to help them through their tragedy.
We thank you for your prompt attention to this critical, urgent matter.