Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala: Seniors Should Have Access to Medicaid After Evacuating States For Natural Disasters

By KEVIN DERBY Sunshine State News

Jennifer González-Colon and Donna Shalala

Jennifer González-Colon and Donna Shalala

This week, a South Florida congresswoman teamed up with U.S. Rep. Jennifer González-Colon, R-PR, to help seniors forced to flee to other states during natural disasters continue to have access to Medicaid. 

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., and González-Colon unveiled the “Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA).”

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, millions of evacuees relocated to neighboring states, where they often lost immediate access to the healthcare and long-term services and support they’d received through Medicaid in their home states,” Shalala’s office noted. “Loss of care can have devastating effects on the wellbeing and recovery of those impacted by natural disasters. The Disaster Relief Medicaid Act would provide a 100 percent federal match for states caring for Relief-Eligible Survivors (individuals residing in an area covered under a president’s disaster declaration) and would help states to develop strategies to manage the influx of out-of-state individuals.”

Shalala weighed in on the bill on Thursday with her office insisting it could impact as many as 72 million Americans. 

“Natural disasters often create long-term health problems for those displaced from their home states. No one should have to choose between remaining in a dangerous location and maintaining healthcare coverage. I am proud to introduce this legislation in the House and will continue to champion these efforts to ensure that all Americans get the medical care that they deserve—no matter the hardship,” said Shalala.

“Patients should feel secure in their ability to retain access to essential benefits, such as health care, in the event of disasters. In Puerto Rico, the 2017 hurricane season revealed how health-related limitations affects the recovery process of the island’s residents. Our people had to relocate to the United States after the disaster and this bill guarantees them to maintain their health services. I want to thank Rep. Shalala for her support in providing solutions to people affected by disasters,” said González-Colon.

Shalala’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees. She also threw her support to the “Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) Act” from U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-RI), which “would ensure greater inclusion and support for people with disabilities and older adults, who are often forgotten, in disaster preparedness plans.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., is championing the DRMA and REAADI companion bills in the Senate.