On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued mixed rulings, allowing vaccine mandates for certain health care workers (Vote was 5-4), but blocking enforcement of a mandate for businesses with 100 or more employers (Vote was 6-3).
The Court ruled that OSHA lacked the authority to impose the mandate because the law establishing OSHA allowed for setting workplace safety standards, but not broad public health measures. The Court, in allowing the mandates on healthcare facilities and their employees, noted that healthcare providers that wish to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs have always been subjected to a variety of conditions that address the safe and effective provision of healthcare services.
Yesterday CMS issued a Statement regarding the decision. The Statement can be located here.
As a result of the decision, health care providers subject to the Omnibus Health Care Staff Vaccination rule in the 24 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming) covered by this decision will now need to establish plans and procedures to ensure their staff are vaccinated and to have their employees receive at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Rule is located here.
The decision does not affect previous timelines for providers in Washington D.C., the territories, and the twenty-five (25) dates where the preliminary injunction was previously lifted. Additional guidance is located at Guidance for the Interim Final Rule – Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination | CMS.
While most healthcare providers and staff recognize the importance of vaccinations, there will certainly be an additional loss of staff by healthcare providers as a result of the rules.
The CMS rule requires that all health care personnel that enter a care setting or come into contact with patients, families or caregivers be vaccinated for COVID-19. The rule requires 100% compliance, and providers would be subject to monetary penalties, potential denials of payment or, as a last resort, termination of their participation in Medicare or Medicaid. The rule states that hospices must have a contingency plan to address workers who do not become vaccinated as required under the emergency regulation. CMS has previously indicated that anything less than 100% staff vaccination would be considered non-compliant.
MANY LIVE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS GOING VIRTUAL AGAIN
Recently, we have received several notifications that live educational programming is being modified to virtual learning environments or webinar formats in response to COVID-19 and restrictions being imposed in certain locations. We encourage everyone to review programs of interest to be alert to changes being made to the program delivery and/or cancellations.