Feds Enact Emergency COVID-19 Vaccination Rules for Health Care Workers. Court Orders Preliminary Injunction.

New federal guidelines will require full vaccination of health care workers, including those working in long-term care, to protect caregivers and recipients.

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Feds Enact Emergency COVID-19 Vaccination Rules for Health Care Workers. Court Orders Preliminary Injunction.
4 Min Read November 7th, 2021 Updated:December 1st, 2021
Washington Bureau

The Biden Administration has issued emergency rules through the Centers for Medicare& Medicaid Services (CMS) that will 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 Medicareand Medicaid programs, including long-term care facilities.

However, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 against the vaccine mandate for health care workers. The judge said a higher court must decide if the executive branch has the power to order vaccination. 

"If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency," wrote Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

The judge is concerned with seperation of powers.

"During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties. Because the plaintiff States have satisfied all four elements required for a preliminary injunction to issue, this Court has determined that a preliminary injunction should issue against the Government Defendants," Doughty said.

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. 

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

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 Medicareand Medicaid while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care.

Full Vaccination by January 4, 2022

If the federal government wins the court case 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. 

The rules state this must be achieved by December 5, 2021 pending the outcome of the court case.

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 – by January 4, 2022, unless the federal government loses in appeal.

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. However, CMS notes that the new rules complement the OSHA rules effective June 21, 2021, to ensure that staff is fully vaccinated from COVID-19 unless exempt.

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,
  • Hospices
  • Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly
  • Hospitals
  • 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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LTC News Contributor   Washington Bureau

Washington Bureau

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