Following the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision to enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate over healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, the deadline to become fully vaccinated has been extended. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new March 15, 2022 deadline for healthcare workers residing in any of the 24 states involved in the litigation, including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. Covered healthcare workers in the other 25 states and the District of Columbia must abide by the original Feb. 28, 2022 deadline.
The remaining state, Texas, brought its own lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate, and the enforcement of the mandate is still stayed as of now.
UPDATED DEADLINE FOR COVERED HEALTHCARE WORKERS IN STATES SUBJECT TO THE SUPREME COURT’S RULING
On Jan. 13, 2022, the Supreme Court lifted a ban on the vaccine mandate covering healthcare workers, finding that the Biden Administration had the authority to implement the vaccine mandate. Under Phase 1 of CMS’ mandate, covered facilities in any of these 24 states where the mandate was previously stayed, including Ohio, have until Feb. 14, 2022 to implement policies ensuring employees become fully vaccinated. Under Phase 2, covered facilities have until March 15, 2022 for their employees to become fully vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control recommends booster shots, but they are not required to be considered “fully vaccinated.”
DEADLINE FOR NON-LITIGATION STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA IS QUICKLY APPROACHING
While the extension provides covered healthcare workers more flexibility given the uncertainty surrounding continued litigation, the new deadline has no impact on healthcare workers residing in states not subject to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia continue to face a Jan. 27, 2022 deadline for Phase 1 and a Feb. 28, 2022 deadline for Phase 2 because the vaccine mandate had not previously been blocked in those locations.
IMPACT OF THE CMS VACCINE MANDATE
The vaccine mandate for healthcare facilities is expected to cover 10.4 million healthcare workers at 76,000 medical facilities nationwide. The mandate only covers the following types of facilities that are regulated by Medicare and Medicaid: ambulatory surgery centers, community mental health centers, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities, critical access hospitals, end-stage renal disease facilities, home health agencies, home infusion therapy suppliers, hospices, hospitals, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, clinics, rehabilitation agencies, public health agencies that provide outpatient physical therapy and speech-language pathology services, psychiatric residential treatment facilities, programs from all-inclusive care for the elderly, rural health clinics/federally qualified health centers and long term care facilities.
Covered facilities must ensure all employees are vaccinated, regardless of patient contact, unless they are exempt or work fully remotely. Healthcare entities not regulated by Medicare and Medicaid, such as physician offices and assisted living facilities, are not covered by the vaccine mandate.
KJK is closely monitoring new developments.