HOW HHS IS RESPONDING TO HURRICANE IRMA —

The agency preemptively declared a public health emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, which allowed CMS to waive or modify certain requirements on providers. The added flexibility is intended to improve the emergency response, such as by allowing hospitals to more easily share medical records or permitting doctors accredited by other states’ Medicaid programs to deliver emergency care. More on those waivers.

HHS also positioned teams of emergency responders in Florida across the weekend, teaming with the Department of Defense to fly in staff with expertise in disaster health. Approximately 550 personnel were staged in Florida as of Sunday morning, the agency said, with additional teams available to deploy if necessary. See photo.

HHS doctors & nurses saw nearly 5,000 [Hurricane Harvey] patients,” HHS Secretary Tom Price posted on Twitter on Sunday. “We’ve deployed even more resources to respond to [Hurricane Irma.]”

HHS evacuating dialysis patients from Virgin Islands. Working with the Department of Defense, the agency is working to rescue dialysis patients from hurricane-ravaged St. Thomas and move them to Puerto Rico. More than 130 American dialysis patients make their home on St. Thomas, CMS said — although some have presumably evacuated — and disruptions in dialysis treatment can become life-threatenting within two to three days.

Health care organizations in Florida struggled to get patients out of hurricane’s way. Hurricane Irma’s turn toward the west side of the state scrambled some emergency efforts, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said on Saturday night, as the storm bore down. “They are still struggling to get everything done, but everybody is working to get it done,” Scott said at the time.

Marco Rubio tells HHS to prepare for a surge in Zika cases. In a letter to Price on Friday, the Florida senator asked for plans to respond to increased mosquito populations in the wake of the storm. CDC has previously warned that standing water left by storms can increase the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika.

FRIDAY SCOOP: KEY DETAILS ON WHAT’s IN GRAHAM-CASSIDY — POLITICO’s Rachana Pradhan scooped late Friday how the last-ditch Obamacare repeal plan is being pitched to GOP governors by its authors, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The lawmakers are expected to reveal the full legislation as soon as today, accompanied by Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, and they’re trying to move fast: The deadline to fast-track a repeal bill using budget reconciliation is Sept. 30.

Bill would set aside $1.2 trillion in block grants by 2026: The Graham-Cassidy plan would replace Obamacare funding for Medicaid expansion and private insurance subsidies with block grants, Rachana writes, drawing on documents shared with the governors. Federal funding available for all states would start at $136 billion in 2020 and grow to $200 billion by 2026.

See a 23-page summary of the bill: More for Pros.

How the formula would work: After a state’s block-grant baseline is established in 2020, the bill outlines a block-grant formula that would apply between 2021 and 2023. Starting in 2024, adjustments to state funding would be made to partially account for the percentage of eligible individuals enrolled in coverage the previous year. Major parts of the Affordable Care Act would remain in place until 2020.

See the plan’s block grant formula description: More for Pros.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Remaining Obamacare repeal bill still offers the wrong prescription.” The paper’s editorial board lays out the case against the still-developing legislation, saying that Republicans’ focus on eliminating the ACA does little to benefit Americans.

“Graham-Cassidy puts political needs before constituents’ well-being,” the board writes in an unsigned editorial. “Let it die a quiet death — one that marks the end of the GOP’s long disingenuous campaign against Obamacare.” More.

— Countdown until reconciliation runs out: 19 days.

THIS IS MONDAY PULSE — Where we’re wondering, after last week’s shocking debt ceiling deal with Democrats, what can Trump possibly do this week that would end up topping it? Embracing Obamacare would probably be a shock too far, even for his new friends Chuck and Nancy.

Don’t keep PULSE in suspense: Send tips and guesses to ddiamond@politico.com or @ddiamond on Twitter.

With help from Victoria Colliver (@vcolliver)

DRIVING THE WEEK — The Senate HELP committee continues its push to craft a limited, bipartisan Obamacare stabilization bill, with hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. The Census Bureau also will post on Tuesday its annual release of national-level income, poverty and health insurance coverage statistics.

PULSE CHECK: WHEN POLITICIANS USED MEDICARE AS A PIGGY BANK — A late-night deal more than a decade ago let politicians make Medicare changes to benefit hospitals and ultimately reap higher campaign contributions, argues a Yale economist — who says he’s got the evidence to prove it.

There’s “a really close link between how Medicare sets its payment policies and some of the games that politicians play and the electoral process,” economist Zack Cooper said on POLITICO’s “Pulse Check” podcast. “Part of the reason we struggle so much with constraining health care spending actually has to do with the politics.”

Listen to the podcast.

Read the story here.

Why Trump hasn’t declared a national emergency on opioids yet. It’s because of indecision with the administration, as senior leaders are split on how best to move forward and how to pay for it, Maggie…

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