If you’re a Texas resident and have a medical condition that could become life threatening if your home were to lose power, you may qualify for critical care or chronic condition status with your TDU. Electric customers with critical care or chronic condition status can receive certain benefits related to notification or interruptions or suspensions of service, and certain protections related to disconnection of service.
Note: When customers sign up for electricity service, they may buy their electricity from retail electric providers (REPs). The public utilities, also known as transmission and distribution utilities (TDUs), deliver the electricity to customers’ homes and maintain equipment like wires, poles and transformers. In Houston, for example, CenterPoint Energy is the TDU. Other TDUs in Texas include AEP Texas Central, AEP Texas North, Nueces Electric, Oncor, Sharyland Utilities (including Cap Rock) and Texas-New Mexico Power.
In areas of Texas that don’t have electricity choice, you are required to buy your electricity from one company – the utility – that also delivers electricity and maintains equipment like wires, poles and transformers.
Critical Care Status
According to new guidelines that took effect Jan. 1, critical care status is now reserved for customers who have a person living in his or her home who has been diagnosed by a physician as being dependent upon an electric-powered medical device to sustain life.
Critical care customers who are unable to pay their electric bills and are in danger of having their electric service disconnected may apply for a 63-day protection period. To qualify, customers must have their doctor contact their REP, verbally and in writing, to confirm critical care status and then enter into a deferred payment plan with their REP. The REP won’t disconnect electric service during the 63-day protection period.
Critical care customers who are still unable to pay their bills after 63 days may begin the process again. In the case of critical care customers who don’t pursue the protection period and are going to be disconnected, their REPs are required to send written notification at least 21 days prior to disconnection. In such cases, TDUs are required to contact critical care customers and secondary contacts by phone. If that fails, TDUs are required to visit customers at home to inform them of the pending disconnection.
Chronic Condition Status
Customers may apply for chronic condition status when they have a person permanently residing in their home that has a serious medical condition that requires an electric powered medical device or electric heating or cooling to prevent the impairment of a major life function through a significant deterioration or exacerbation of the person’s medical condition. Unlike critical care status, chronic condition status is usually good for only 90 days. Customers may repeat the application process after each 90-day period.
A chronic condition customer who is unable to pay his or her electric bills, as well as his/her secondary contact, will receive written notification from his/her REP at least 21 days prior to a scheduled disconnection (an email notice will be sent if the customer agrees).
Important Information about Critical Care and Chronic Condition Status
Previously Certified Critical Care Customers — Electric customers who were granted critical care status under the old guidelines that expired Jan. 1 will remain covered until their application is due for renewal. At that time, customers must meet the new requirements for critical care or chronic condition status.
Requirement to Pay — By law, granting critical care or chronic condition status doesn’t relieve electric customers of the obligation to pay for electric service.
No Guarantee of Electric Service — Electric customers who’ve been granted critical care or chronic condition status are not guaranteed an uninterrupted, regular or continuous power supply. In cases where electric supply is a necessity, customers must provide their own on-site backup capabilities, such as installing generators, to ensure uninterrupted service in the event of a power loss.
Online Application — The application for critical care or chronic condition status may be found online at www.puc.state.tx.us/industry/electric/forms/critical/ccform.pdf.
Texas Office of Public Utility Counsel website, “PUC Passes New Rules on Critical Care and Chronic Care.”
Public Utility Commission of Texas form, “Application for Chronic condition or Critical Care Residential Customer Status,” Jan. 13, 2011.