The United States Supreme Court in a ruling on January 13, 2022 is allowing the Biden administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.
The Biden Administration had issued emergency rules through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that would require health care workers to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The new rules affect all eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including long-term care facilities.
A federal appeals court had reversed a previous court ruling that had stopped the mandate. In November, a federal judge in Louisiana had issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the vaccine mandate for health care workers. It was appealed to the Supreme Court.
The CMS says the new regulation will protect those fighting COVID-19 on the front lines while also delivering assurances to individuals and their families that they will be protected when seeking care.
All eligible workers must now be fully vaccinated.. CMS asserts that its rules take priority above other federal vaccination requirements.
The court stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had wanted employees at private businesses with 100 or more workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or get tested for COVID-19 weekly. That now will not happen.
Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combatting the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we’re seeing,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.
CMS says the impact of the COVID-19 virus, including the Delta variant, increases the risk of unvaccinated staff contracting the virus and transmitting the virus to patients. Patients, especially in long-term care facilities, are at greater risk. Adults 60 and older and those with an underlying health condition or a compromised immune system are at greater risk when contracting the virus. They also have more complications and higher death rates.
Strain Being Placed on Health Care System
CMS says that when health care staff cannot work because of illness or exposure to COVID-19, the strain on the health care system becomes more severe and further limits patient access to safe and essential care.
In some places in the country, shortages of care providers make providing necessary long-term health care services more difficult and more costly.
“Today’s action addresses the risk of unvaccinated health care staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation’s health care system to strengthen the health of people and the providers who care for them,” Brooks-LaSure said.
These new regulations apply to approximately 76,000 providers and cover over 17 million health care workers across the country. The rules will create a consistent standard within Medicare and Medicaid while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care.
Full Vaccination by January 4, 2022
All health care facilities must establish policies that ensure that eligible staff has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (or the one dose of Johnson & Johnson) before providing care and services to patients.
All eligible staff must have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated – either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson.
Some exemptions are being allowed - pre-existing health issues or religious beliefs, observances, or practices.
These rules do not apply to some health care settings such as physician offices and other small entities that CMS does not regulate.
CMS will enforce the new rules to meet their goal is to bring health care providers into compliance. CMS says it will not hesitate to use its full enforcement authority to protect the health and safety of patients.
List of Health Care Facilities Impacted by Rule
The requirements apply to the following health care facilities:
- Ambulatory Surgical Centers,
- Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly
- Long-term care facilities
- Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities
- Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
- Home Health Agencies
- Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facilities
- Critical Access Hospitals
- Clinics (rehabilitation agencies and public health agencies as providers of outpatient physical therapy and speech-language pathology services)
- Community Mental Health Centers
- Home Infusion Therapy suppliers
- Rural Health Clinics/Federally Qualified Health Centers
- End-Stage Renal Disease Facilities
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Contributor since April 22nd, 2021
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