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Business Guidance

Emergency Rule Requires COVID-19 Vaccination for Healthcare Workers

3 minute read time

On November 4, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an emergency regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination for eligible staff at healthcare facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS also issued a set of FAQs on the vaccination requirement. The emergency regulation is effective beginning November 5, 2021.

A federal appeals court issued a stay on a similar regulation released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, the CMS regulation for healthcare workers is unaffected by the court ruling.

COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

These requirements apply to Medicare and Medicaid-certified provider and supplier types that are regulated under the Medicare health and safety standards, including hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. Facilities covered by this regulation must establish a policy ensuring that all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment or other services by December 6, 2021. All eligible staff must have received the necessary shots to be considered fully vaccinated—either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson—by January 4, 2022.

The regulation provides or exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs. Facilities must develop a similar process or plan for permitting exemptions in alignment with federal law. However, there is no weekly testing option for unvaccinated workers.

Affected healthcare facilities must ensure that their staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, 2022.

Comment Period

Stakeholders have 60 days to submit formal comments on the emergency regulation. However, since this is an emergency regulation, the requirements will go into effect immediately and before any additional response is provided on the comments by CMS. The comment period officially closes on January 4, 2022. At that point, CMS will consider and respond to comments as a part of potential future rulemaking, if needed.

Important Dates

November 5, 2021

Publication and effective date of rule requiring COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers.

December 6, 2021

Deadline for healthcare facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to establish a policy requiring staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

January 4, 2022

Deadline for eligible healthcare staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

This Risk Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.