CMS, HHS Issue Emergency Regulation Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for Healthcare Workers
In an effort to protect patients and control the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have issued (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/11/05/2021-23831/medicare-and-medicaid-programs-omnibus-covid-19-health-care-staff-vaccination) an interim final rule requiring all staff at certain Medicare- and Medicaid-certified healthcare facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to CMS, the staff vaccination requirements apply (https://www.cms.gov/files/document/cms-omnibus-covid-19-health-care-staff-vaccination-requirements-2021.pdf) to the following Medicare- and Medicaid-certified provider and supplier types: 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 as providers of outpatient physical therapy and speech-language pathology services, psychiatric residential treatment facilities programs for all-inclusive care for elderly organizations, rural health clinics, Medicare federally qualified health centers, and long-term care facilities.
CMS reported (https://www.cms.gov/files/document/cms-omnibus-covid-19-health-care-staff-vaccination-requirements-2021.pdf) that the vaccination requirements apply to eligible staff at almost all CMS-certified facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, regardless of clinical responsibility or patient contact. Staff who provide any care, treatment, or other services for the facility and its patients must be vaccinated under the requirement.
The requirement does not apply to full-time teleworkers who provide services 100% remotely and do not have contact with patients and other staff. Religious nonmedical healthcare institutions, organ procurement organizations, and portable x-ray supplies are not included in these requirements.
“It is essential to reduce the transmission and spread of COVID-19, and vaccination is central to any multipronged approach for reducing health system burden, safeguarding healthcare workers and the people they serve, and ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CMS interim final rule said (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/11/05/2021-23831/medicare-and-medicaid-programs-omnibus-covid-19-health-care-staff-vaccination). “Higher rates of vaccination, especially in healthcare settings, will contribute to a reduction in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and associated morbidity and mortality across providers and communities, contributing to maintaining and increasing the amount of healthy and productive healthcare staff, and reducing risks to patients, resident, clients, and PACE program participants.”