Things became a little clearer for home care organizations on Thursday. The Supreme Court maintained one controversial federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate while rejecting another.

Specifically, it ruled that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandate, which requires healthcare workers to be vaccinated, can proceed. However, it stayed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandate, arguing it presented an overreach.

“OSHA has never imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the majority opinion on the OSHA rule stated.

Home care organizations seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that at least one of the rules was upheld.

“Today’s decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court brings home care a step closer to the essential clarity that is needed to determine what is required for compliance,” said Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. “The OSHA rule is blocked from implementation and enforcement for the moment. The CMS rule can take full effect for the moment. Both cases return to the lower courts for further adjudication.”

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, suggested that adhering to the CMS mandate is part of the new normal.  

“Many LeadingAge providers implemented mandates months before the federal government announced its plans, and a recent poll of our mission-driven members reveals the vast majority are ready to move forward on the CMS healthcare worker mandates,” she said.  

The reality is that vaccinated home care workers are safer for patients and staff. Whether that is through a mandate or corporate initiative, many organizations want their people to be vaccinated. (And as a side note: employees don’t mind it, either, according to a recent poll. Some 6 in 10 people would rather work for a company with a mandate.)

In a sense, now those home care firms that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding are off the hook. The federal government has dictated that most employees must be fully vaccinated by the end of February or face deficiencies.

It is the other firms — the ones formerly under the OSHA mandate — that have an uphill climb. Will they encourage vaccinations through mandates or internal pressure? Unlike those companies subject to the CMS mandate, they have to be the bad guy. I don’t envy them. 

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected] and follow her @LizaBerger19.