262799 Access to health care in the event of national disaster or emergency: A policy investigation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emily Johnston, BA , Department of Health Services Research and Health Policy, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
The occurrence of national disasters and other emergencies leads to the problem of providing consistent and affordable access to health care for displaced individuals. When individuals are displaced, they are often no longer able to utilize their traditional care providers, leading to difficulty in finding a provider willing to accept their insurance as well as the accrual of out-of-network costs. These barriers may lead individuals to underutilize necessary non-emergency care for the duration of their displacement. This paper explores the current policies surrounding the regulation of health insurance during public health emergencies and identifies opportunities to develop new policies to address the barriers to access met by displaced individuals. The public insurance sector has already addressed the problem of providing consistent and affordable access to care for displaced individuals through the use of Section 1135 waivers by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Currently, no analogous process exists to regulate private insurance in the event of national disaster or emergency. The establishment of criteria for certification for health insurance plans within state insurance exchanges by the HHS Secretary provides an opportunity to regulate the emergency response policies of these plans. This paper identifies the potential policy solution of including a structure similar to Section 1135 waivers as a requirement for insurance plan participation in exchanges to develop a standardized process for response to disasters and emergencies for all plans in the exchanges and to reduce the barriers to health care faced by individuals displaced by these events.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the problem of providing access to health care for displaced individuals. 2. Identify the policy solution for this problem implemented by public insurance programs. 3. Explain the use of Section 1135 waivers during public health emergencies. 3. Describe a possible policy solution for private insurance programs.

Keywords: Access to Health Care, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in health services research and health policy at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University where I conduct research on the implementation of health reform and public policy related to health care and health insurance.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.