Obama administration declares public health emergency for NY

The department issued similar declarations for past hurricanes, major floods and the 2009 outbreak of swine flu. 

The move allows the healthcare system more flexibility in tending to crisis victims — permitting Medicare patients in New York to receive care at a nursing home without a prior three-day hospital stay, for example.

The announcement will also enable "alternate service locations" for federal health programs to be established quickly, HHS said.

Northeastern healthcare systems have been strained by Sandy, a storm of historic proportions that hit the East Coast earlier this week.