On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new “COVID-19 Action Plan” designed to mitigate the continuing effects of the Delta variant by increasing the number of vaccinated individuals. The plan includes, among other things, an upcoming COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees of most Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities. Here is what providers need to know now:
- Much is still unknown. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) is still developing the emergency regulations detailing the scope and requirements of the mandate. The agency has publicly stated that it expects to release an Interim Final Rule with a Comment Period regarding the regulations “in October.” We will know more about the mandate when those regulations are published; for now, we only know what was stated regarding the mandate in President Biden’s plan and CMS’ related press release.
- Coverage: The mandate will apply to employees of “most” health care providers that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, “including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies.” While the mandate is not expected to reach all CMS-certified providers, the true scope of the mandate will turn on how the regulations define coverage, which will likely be broad. It is likely, for example, that hospital-owned or operated physician practices will be covered by the mandate, but independent practices may not be.
- Consequences: For those providers covered by the mandate, compliance will be a condition of continued participation in CMS-governed reimbursement programs. The regulations are expected to define CMS’ enforcement