BOSTON—Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) announced the Survival Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) through Medicare Act, legislation that would require Medicare to cover the full cost of equipment medically necessary for those who are at-risk in the event of a climate disaster—ensuring air conditioners, refrigerators, generators, solar batteries and more are covered so that seniors and people with disabilities are able to safely weather any storm or natural disaster with their life-sustaining medications or medical-equipment at hand. Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10) has announced companion legislation in the House.
“Climate justice is a matter of disability justice,” said Markey. “When the temperature skyrockets and the power goes out, things like solar batteries and heat pumps become medical devices. The SAFE through Medicare Act will keep people safe in their homes and prevent medical tragedies. It’s time that we guarantee that seniors and people with disabilities can safely weather the climate crisis.”
“Florida and our nation deserve a disaster-ready health care system that will help working people and seniors be able to afford to safely weather any storm,” said Frost. “It’s unacceptable that in a state where we regularly live through hurricanes, flooding and severe rain, folks on fixed incomes are one natural disaster away from losing the life-sustaining medication or medical devices they need. The SAFE through Medicare Act will help Florida seniors and folks with disabilities be protected during the worst mother nature can throw at us.”
Specifically, the SAFE through Medicare Act would require Medicare coverage for 100% of the cost of home resiliency services or items that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determines are medically necessary for an individual who is medically at-risk in the event of a climate or manmade disaster, including extreme heat, extreme cold, flooding and loss of power. In determining whether a service or item is medically necessary, HHS would consider geographic risk, regional history of disasters, medical reliance on sensitive equipment and supplies and chronic medical conditions and comorbidities.
The SAFE through Medicare Act is endorsed by Health Care Without Harm, Transhealth, Family Health Center of Worcester, Climate and Community Project, American College of Nurse Midwives, National Hispanic Medical Association, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Massachusetts Nurses Association, American Federation of Teachers and Disability Rights Florida.
“Safe housing is a key predictor of health and safety through disaster," said Batul Hassan, policy manager at Climate and Community Project. "As climate disasters like heatwaves, air quality crises, flooding and more—the culmination of decades of delayed response to the climate crisis—increase in frequency and intensity, bills like Senator Markey’s Survival Aid For Emergencies through Medicare Act are critical for making sure peoples’ health needs are proactively anticipated and met. By working to ensure that Medicare recipients and their caretakers are able to remain safe, stable and in-place through crises, this bill will reduce avoidable suffering and sickness and ensure that people are able to weather climate emergencies with dignity."