BREAKING: CMS vaccine mandate upheld

A vaccine requirement for staff at all U.S. nursing homes and other federally funded healthcare facilities can proceed, the Supreme Court said in a 5-4 decision Thursday afternoon.

The Court lifted two injunctions blocking a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule covering more than 17 million workers, including all who may interact with patients at more than 15,000 nursing homes. The rule, announced Nov. 5 and on hold in half the country for several weeks, may now move forward.

The High Court also voted 6-3 to stay, or block, a rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring workers at large employers to be vaccinated or get tested regularly. It would not have threatened nursing homes’ core Medicare and Medicaid funding streams, but it still figured to have a profound affect due to various other business relationships. That rule is being watched closely by other long-term care and senior care providers. It, unlike the CMS mandate, would allow for a test-out option for those not getting vaccinated.

In a Dec. 28 CMS memo guiding compliance in 25 states not covered by the now-lifted injunctions, the agency laid out new deadlines and targets for the mandate. Workers must have at least one shot by Jan. 27, and a second shot (if applicable) by Feb. 28.

Facilities with less than 100% vaccination coverage may face removal from the Medicare or Medicare Medicaid programs under the CMS mandate. The agency has previously said, however, that it would pursue other enforcement measures first. It also has said it will provide 30-day and 60-day grace periods to providers that get shots to more than 80% of staff by the first deadline.

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