Today, January 13th, the Supreme Court ruled on the preliminary injunctions blocking the OSHA and CMS vaccine mandates in plaintiff states (including Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming). While the Supreme Court blocked the OSHA mandate requiring companies with 100 employees or more to mandate vaccines or require weekly testing, it narrowly upheld the CMS mandate for healthcare workers.
In its decision, the Supreme Court explained that Congress has authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to impose conditions on the receipt of Medicaid and Medicare funds that the Secretary deems necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services paid for by Medicaid and Medicare. Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine falls under this authority.
The majority opinion explains the importance of ensuring that patients are not exposed to COVID-19 by way of their medical providers, stating, “[a]fter all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm. It would be the ‘very opposite of efficient and effective administration for a facility that is supposed to make people well to make them sick with COVID–19.'” A copy of the decision can be found here.
At this point, covered healthcare providers who have not already done so should proceed forward with requiring vaccination of all employees and implementing related policies and procedures. Employees may be eligible for medical or religious exemptions. Because CMS has not yet issued updated guidance, covered healthcare providers should assume that the enforcement timelines set forth in the December 28, 2021 CMS guidance apply at this time. These timeframes will likely be delayed if/when CMS issues additional guidance. Our team is monitoring this and will provide updates if new guidance is released.
If you’d like more assistance understanding what this means for you as a healthcare employer, contact us at [email protected].
The Smith + Malek Healthcare Team