Health care providers stuck between the state, fed on vaccinations

Health care providers stuck between the state, fed on vaccinations

With Florida lawmakers next week expected to try to thwart vaccination mandates, the long-term care industry group raised concerns Friday about a conflict with a new federal rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

LeadingAge Florida, which represents nursing homes and other types of facilities and major communities, has called on lawmakers to include an exemption for health care providers in legislation likely to be passed during a special session beginning Monday, November 15.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week issued a rule requiring workers in health care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to have a full vaccination by January 4.

Steve Bahmer, President and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, issued a statement Friday saying that health care providers could face financial penalties and potential termination from Medicare and Medicaid programs if they fail to comply with the federal rule.

“Next week during a special session, Florida lawmakers are preparing to pass legislation that would limit vaccine mandates to employers, making it impossible for providers to comply with state and federal guidance unless a health care waiver is in place,” Bahmer said. in the statement. Nursing homes must comply with the federal rule because federal law trumps state law. Loss of Medicaid and Medicare funding would be devastating for providers and could ultimately displace Florida’s most vulnerable elders.”

Governor Ron DeSantis called a special legislative session to target vaccination and hide mandates. Identical bills (HB 1-B and SB 2-B) in the House and Senate will prevent employers from ordering vaccinations unless they provide ways workers can opt out.

For example, workers can avoid the requirements if they provide medical reasons, religious reasons, or can demonstrate “immunity to COVID-19,” according to the bill. Also, they can be exempted if they agree to regular COVID-19 testing or agree to wear personal protective equipment.

But these potential reasons are broader than the exceptions to the federal rule requiring vaccinations for health care workers. Federal law includes exemptions for medical and religious reasons under laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act.

Information published in the Federal Register shows that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services intends that waivers for vaccination requirements will be narrow.

“Requests for waivers based on applicable federal law must be documented and evaluated in accordance with applicable federal law and each facility’s policies and procedures,” Federal Information said. “As appropriate herein, this (rule) pre-empts the applicability of any state or local law providing for exemptions to the extent that such law provides for exemptions broader than those provided by federal law and is inconsistent with this (rule).”

Ten states filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Missouri challenging the rule. DeSantis recently said that Florida would also challenge the rule, but state officials have not announced a case has been filed.

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