President Trump on March 13, 2020, declared the rapidly evolving covid-19 pandemic a national emergency, an action that enables the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive certain requirements in Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP under Section 1135 authority. The agency’s new authority includes the ability to grant state and territorial Medicaid agencies a wider range of flexibilities. States may now submit for CMS approval Section 1135 waiver requests that will remove administrative burdens and expand access to needed services.

Shortly after the national emergency was declared, Florida became the first state to submit a Section 1135 waiver request. In keeping with CMS’s commitment to ensure its state partners have the tools they need to combat covid-19, the agency acted within days to approve a wide variety of appropriate Medicaid flexibilities.

“I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership in Medicaid and for taking full advantage of federal flexibilities,” says CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “CMS is committed to removing all unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic barriers that may hinder an effective response to this public health emergency, and I have directed my team to expeditiously process these requests.”

The state’s approval letter includes flexibilities that enable it to waive prior authorization requirements to remove barriers to needed services, streamline provider enrollment processes to ensure access to care for beneficiaries, allow care to be provided in alternative settings in the event a facility is evacuated to an unlicensed facility, suspend certain nursing home screening requirements to provide necessary administrative relief, and extend deadlines for appeals and state fair hearing requests. These flexibilities will enable the state to focus its resources on combatting the covid-19 pandemic and provide the best possible care to Medicaid beneficiaries in their state.

For more information, visit CMS.