Important Information for Medicare Beneficiaries Affected by Wild Fire Disasters

California Health Advocates (CHA) received communication from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that people with Medicare who live in or were evacuated from a FEMA-declared wild fire emergency or disaster area will be eligible for a Special Election Period (SEP) to switch, disenroll from or enroll into a Medicare Advantage or Part D drug plan after Medicare’s official Open Enrollment ends December 7 if they missed the deadline.

In addition, this SEP is available to those individuals who don’t live in the affected areas, but rely on help making healthcare decisions from friends or family members who live in the affected areas.

The SEP is available from the start of the incident, and for four full calendar months thereafter. Therefore, in this case, it starts in November and runs through March 31, 2018.

Medicare beneficiaries or their family caregivers who have any questions about their rights and protections can call their local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) for free assistance at 1-800-434-0222. For information regarding FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assistance, call 800-621-3362. For more information on the SEP, see Section 30.4.4 #18 of Chapter 2 of the Medicare Advantage Enrollment Manual (available here).

California Health Advocates is an independent non-profit organization that provides quality Medicare and related health care coverage information, education and policy advocacy.  CHA equips community organizations and government agencies with up-to-date information, especially the 24 local HICAPs, which provide benefits counseling and community education directly to those with Medicare and their families. For more information or to learn about CHA’s training opportunities, please contact CHA at 916-231-5110 or visit their website at