Medicare & Medicaid Service Centers will require COVID-19 vaccines for all Medicare and Medicaid healthcare workers by January 4, and OSHA will require vaccinations for all employees in businesses with 100 or more employees. Get tested for the virus by the same date or weekly, agencies said Thursday morning.
In September, President Joe Biden tasked two agencies to develop policies on staff vaccination requirements as part of the administration’s national vaccine strategy. Biden also ordered federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CMS will require healthcare providers that have Medicare or Medicaid programs, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient surgery centers, dialysis facilities, home health facilities, and more, to ensure that all clinical and non-clinical staff are vaccinated by January. 4 deadline. The Temporary Final Rule states that full vaccination means two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, meaning no booster shots are required. There will be a 60 day period for comments on the interim final rule.
The administration estimates that the CMS’s mandate will extend to more than 17 million healthcare workers in approximately 76,000 healthcare facilities.
The OSHA rule, created as an interim emergency standard, requires businesses with 100 or more employees to fully vaccinate all personnel by January 4th. Employees who have not yet been vaccinated will be required to test negative for COVID-19 weekly and wear a face mask in the workplace. The rule does not require employers to provide or pay for tests, but the fact sheet notes that other laws or collective agreements may leave employers on the hook to cover these costs on a case-by-case basis. Employers are required to provide paid vaccination leave to staff in accordance with this rule.
Health officials will not have the opportunity to undergo regular testing for COVID-19 instead of being vaccinated as a way to protect patient safety, a senior administration official said during a phone call Wednesday night. According to the rule, medical professionals are allowed exceptions for medical and religious reasons under the rule.
If a healthcare facility does not comply with the rules after the January deadline, CMS will impose a range of consequences, ranging from civil penalties to denied payment and exclusion of the facility from Medicare and Medicaid. The exclusion from the programs would be a last resort and will only be used after opportunities have been provided to meet the requirements, according to an administration official.
Health organizations have welcomed the intention of the requirement ahead of its release this fall, and nursing home associations said expanding the requirement to other health sectors could help avoid a worsening workforce crisis, although American Hospital Association Letter dated September 27. raises concerns about possible negative impacts of demands on the workforce. Administration officials said Wednesday that there were no massive resignations among health workers.
The CMS rule will replace the OSHA rule for any businesses that may meet the requirements for both policies, the new rule says in a newsletter. The rule also pushes back the December 8 deadline for federal contractors for vaccinations so that it coincides with the January 4 deadline for CMS and OSHA policies.
The OSHA emergency standard has many precedents and is within the agency’s legal mandate, another senior administration official said by telephone. In addition, the newsletter states that both rules take precedence over any state or local laws that may interfere with the implementation of mandates. Several states, including Texas, have limited employers’ powers to demand a COVID-19 vaccine in recent months.
While the administration insists that its powers are within the established framework, experts say legal challenges to the CMS and OSHA rules are almost inevitable.