The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Tuesday reversed on a previous decision, and will now mandate health care workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine within the next month in half of the nation where the mandate has not been put on hold by the court.
The new CMS rule reverses a decision made on Nov. 5 that suspended the mandate, making it dependent on the future of two cases, State of Louisiana et al v. Xavier Becerra, Sec. of HHS, et al and Joseph Biden, President of U.S., et al v. Missouri, et al. Half of all U.S. states joined in these lawsuits to stop the federal vaccine requirement for health care employees. The Supreme Court combined the two and will hear arguments next week.
Facilities in states not part of the pending case will be forced to have 100% of staff vaccinated by Jan. 27, 2022. If a health care center has a compliance rate of more than 80% and plans to reach a 100% rate within 60 days, then the facility will not be "subject to additional enforcement action." Depending on the rate of vaccination, enforcement mechanisms include "plans of correction, civil monetary penalties, denial of payment, termination, etc."
Workers must receive a second dose by Feb. 28, the memo states. All employees must receive the vaccine "regardless" of their job responsibilities or the amount of time they are in contact with patients.
Health care employees affected by the new rule are allowed to opt-out of the vaccine mandate, and receive other "accommodations" if they have a "disability or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observations."
Centers that do not comply are at risk of losing federal Medicare or Medicaid funding.
The CMS mandate affects health care workers in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.