On January 13, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the vaccination mandate for health care workers covered under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation. Contrary to the decision made on OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard, the Court determined that the Secretary of Health and Human Services did not exceed his authority in issuing the mandate for covered health care workers and did so as part of his responsibility to protect patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid services. The final decision also pointed out that there is a long history of vaccination being required in health care settings, specifically to protect the health and safety of patients.
Is this the final ruling on the vaccination mandate for health care workers?
Yes. Since the Supreme Court agreed with the determination made in the lower court (the 6th Circuit), there are no further steps to take. The decision overturned the injunctions in place for 24 states but did not overturn the injunction in place in Texas, which addresses a separate matter. The state of Texas dismissed that lawsuit, however, making the vaccination mandate enforceable in all states.
When do employers have to comply with the CMS mandate?
The 25 states not under the injunction are required to comply with Phase 1 and Phase 2 according to the original timeline of January 27 and February 28, respectively. The compliance dates were pushed back for the 24 states under the injunction (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming) and will become effective 30 days following the Supreme Court’s decision. Those states have until February 13 and March 15 to comply with Phase 1 and Phase 2, respectively.
Are there health care providers not impacted by this decision?
Health care providers who do not receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid do not need to comply with the mandate. Health care employers not covered by the CMS mandate are still covered by OSHA’s General Duty Clause and should be mindful of the requirement to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Exceptions may be requested by employees due to a sincerely held religious belief or underlying health condition.
More information on the vaccination requirements for those covered by CMS can be found in the FAQ provided by the organization.