What Comprises President Biden's Recent Executive Order?
As part of President Biden’s six-pronged comprehensive, national, and science-based strategy to combat the recent surge of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant, the administration is focusing on increasing vaccinations for those that are eligible. Currently, 175 million Americans are fully vaccinated however, there are nearly 80 million that are eligible but have not yet gotten their first shot.
Last Thursday on Sept. 9, President Biden announced an executive order that includes new vaccination requirements for most healthcare entities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements. Building on the recently announced vaccination requirement for nursing facilities (announced on Aug. 18), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) is now requiring healthcare facilities that receive federal funds to mandate vaccinations for their workers, including but not limited to:
- Dialysis facilities
- Ambulatory surgical settings
- Home health agencies
This mandate applies to approximately 50,000 providers across the U.S. and their staff including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers, and even staff who don’t provide direct patient, resident, or client care. “If you’re seeking care at a healthcare facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated. Simple, straightforward, period,” Biden said.
Other non-healthcare entities with at least 100 employees will also be required to mandate vaccinations or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.
How & When Will These Mandates Be Enforced?
Provided below are updates regarding the various government agencies tasked with issuing guidance on the vaccine mandates.
- The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued its guidance regarding President Biden’s recent executive order on vaccine mandates for federal contractors. The guidance:
- Requires covered contractors and subcontractors adopt a “hard” vaccine mandate to ensure covered employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, subject only to legally required medical and religious exemptions by Dec. 8 of this year.
- Extends to not only employees working directly on federal contracts, but also to HR, billing, and legal personnel who perform work “in connection with” covered contracts.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is drafting and will issue its interim final rule in October for employers with at least 100 employees.
- CMS is drafting its guidance on the recent vaccine mandate for healthcare facilities that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursement
Additionally, although there may be some challenges at the state level, from a precedent perspective, when it comes to challenges brought by healthcare workers before the pandemic, courts have generally traditionally upheld vaccination requirements as a condition of employment.
How Are Providers Responding?
Healthcare providers are already experiencing significant workforce shortages especially because the pandemic has exacerbated clinician burnout, causing healthcare workers to cut back their hours or retire sooner than planned. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), the recent executive order to mandate vaccinations for all healthcare workers could further strain a system that’s already in crisis. AHA’s CEO, Rick Pollack, has asked the federal government to develop “aggressive and creative” strategies to address the workforce issue.
Generally speaking, provider groups, however, support the impending federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement. One of these groups is nursing homes, which was originally the only subset of healthcare providers required to vaccinate their workers before the recent announcement. Katie Smith Sloan, the president and CEO of LeadingAge (which represents more than 5,000 nursing homes, home health, and hospice providers) agrees, “Ensuring that all front-line healthcare staff are vaccinated just makes sense.”
Want to learn more about the possible impacts of President Biden's recent executive order on vaccine mandates for Compliance and HR professionals?
Check out our Executive Brief on the topic, held on September 23 with ProviderTrust’s co-founder, Mike Rosen and our Chief Compliance Officer, Donna Thiel.