COVID vaccine in hands of caregiver

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s rulings regarding federal vaccine mandates, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued vaccination deadlines for organizations in the 24 states now subject to the rule.

The guidance, issued Friday, requires that covered home care and other healthcare organizations establish plans and procedures to ensure their staffs are vaccinated within 30 days of the guidance. All employees must be fully vaccinated by March 15.

The new guidance does not affect agencies in those states previously subject to the mandate. Among these organizations, the target for full vaccination is Feb. 28. Also, a preliminary injunction still applies to Texas, CMS said.

CMS considers home health agency staff to be the following: employees; licensed practitioners; students, trainees and volunteers; and individuals who provide care and treatment for the agency and/or its patients by contract or another arrangement.

The 24 states under the new guidance are the following: 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.

CMS issued specific memos for home health agencies, hospices and other healthcare organizations subject to the mandate. It indicated that while it expects 100% compliance by the deadlines provided, there is leeway on enforcement if the organization demonstrates a good-faith effort. For example, within 30 days, if the facility is above 80% and has a plan to achieve 100% compliance within 60 days, it would not be subject to enforcement action. Similarly, if within 60 days, a facility is above 90% and has a plan to achieve 100% compliance within 90 days, it would not be subject to CMS enforcement.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the CMS mandate could proceed but blocked the federal vaccine mandate issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The rulings followed weeks of court battles involving both mandates. In mid-December, a federal appeals court reinstated the mandate in 26 states, leaving 24 states not having to adhere to the mandate.