A federal judge in Texas has dismissed the state’s challenge of CMS’ vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, paving the way for the federal agency to enforce the mandate across the country.
The court ruling comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s opinion on the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The Supreme Court narrowly agreed last week that the federal government can enforce an interim final rule mandating that most healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs have their employees vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Supreme Court, however, shot down the vaccine mandate released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The mandate would have required all employers with more than 100 employees to require COVID-19 vaccinations.
CMS updated guidance following the Supreme Court’s decision to provide new compliance deadlines for states that were involved in legal challenges of the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The agency said healthcare facilities in the states, which represented nearly half of the country, had to have their employees fully vaccinated by March 15, 2022, unless workers have a qualifying religious or medical exemption.
The states subject to this guidance are 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.
The guidance specifically does not apply to the state of Texas since a court had issued a preliminary injunction as the case made its way through the legal system. The Biden Administration later appealed the injunction and requested a stay of the order pending its appeal.
The remaining states and the District of Columbia were also not included in the guidance. Healthcare facilities in those areas have until Feb. 25, 2022, to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated per previous guidance from CMS.
Now, CMS can have surveyors implement and enforce the vaccine mandate in Texas. Although CMS has yet to provide updated guidance or compliance deadlines for healthcare facilities in the state.
Failure to comply with the vaccine mandate could result in termination from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to previous agency guidance. Nursing homes and similar entities are also subject to fines and claim denials under a similar vaccine mandate specifically for their organizations.