Due to the extent of the record-breaking storms that devastated nearly all of Texas this past February, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved an extension of the ongoing Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) through July 31, 2021. This extended SEP from winter storms is applicable statewide and will allow those who may have missed their Medicare Advantage (MA) and prescription drug plan (PDP) enrollment deadlines to apply for or update their coverage without penalty.
The current FEMA SEP is known as Active Disaster 4586 and is active in all Texas counties. This SEP was created in direct response to the devastating winter storms faced by families across Texas from Feb. 11 to 17, 2021. The SEP will remain open through the end of July.
SEPs are time periods outside of typical Medicare enrollment windows in which beneficiaries can apply for MA or PDP coverage without facing penalties. SEPs are usually offered on a case-by-case basis and may apply when a beneficiary’s address changes, they lose their current coverage, or they become eligible for other coverage. FEMA also has the power to create SEPs based on geographical locations that may be facing natural disasters or other unforeseen, widespread catastrophes.
Winter Storms Across Texas
In February 2021, three major winter storms raged across Texas, leaving much of the state without power for days, weeks, and in some cases, months. The first of which, lasting from Feb. 11 to 12, caused freezing drizzle to create black ice on many roadways, which led to a monumental 130+ car pileup on I-35 in Fort Worth that took the lives of six Texans and injured many more. The final two storms, spanning Feb. 14 through 17, saw nearly 235 consecutive hours of below-freezing temperatures in DFW. The only reprieve from the biting cold came on Feb. 13 when the temperature climbed to 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many individuals living in the northern parts of the United States are used to storms of this magnitude; however, Texas homes and facilities are equipped to handle blistering temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during much of the summer months, rather than below freezing temps in winter. The state has no insulated plumbing and employs only 700 snowplows, which do little to clear the roads in the many smaller towns that dot Texas’ 683,533 miles of roadway. This led to bursting pipes and mass power outages that left four million without power, running water, or heat.
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We hope this information on the extended SEP from winter storms is helpful.
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