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CMS Vaccine Mandate Update

 
On January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' vaccine requirement for health care workers. Read on to learn more about what this decision means for Tennessee health centers.
 
On January 13, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to uphold the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' COVID-19 vaccine requirement for staff at health care facilities. At the same time, the Court struck down the COVID-19 vaccine requirement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), for employers with 100 or more employees.  
 
What does the decision mean for the future of the mandate? 
The CMS vaccine requirement was already in effect in roughly half of U.S. states, including Tennessee. The Court's decision lifted preliminary injunctions in the remaining states, allowing the mandate to be implemented and enforced across the country.  
 
CMS is now permitted enforce the vaccine mandate while underlying lawsuits work their way through the court system. Given the status of lower court proceedings, there is a possibility the Supreme Court would rule on the mandate again. However, since the Court's stance is known, it's unlikely it will have to revisit the issue.  
 
How does the ruling affect health centers in Tennessee? 
Health centers in Tennessee and 24 other states were already subject to the CMS vaccine mandate, due to a court decision back in December. However, details about implementation and compliance were unclear until December 28 when CMS released updated guidance. Health centers in Tennessee must now comply with January 27 and February 28 deadlines: 
 
By January 27, 2022, health centers are required to: 
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures 
  • Have 100% of staff receive at least one dose, or have pending requests for or been granted an exemption, or a temporary delay
By February 28, 2022, health centers are required to: 
  • Have 100% of staff fully vaccinated or have been granted a qualifying exemption or temporary delay  
 
For health centers in states that are newly subject to the mandate, CMS released updated guidance on January 14 with deadlines of February 13 and March 15. Full enforcement will begin on March 1 for Tennessee and other states with the earlier compliance dates, while full enforcement will begin on March 16 for the remaining states. 
 

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