The Supreme Court has upheld the controversial Medicare vaccine mandate/interim final rule, and it will go into effect for all states. The similar OSHA vaccine mandate, which would have required all companies with over 100 employees to have their staff vaccinated, was struck down. For most healthcare providers, the OSHA ruling is irrelevant since the CMS mandate applies to nearly all Medicare-certified providers. CMS released guidance (QSO-22-07) at the end of 2021 that tells us what surveyors will look for when checking and enforcing compliance with the interim final rule.
The guidance released by CMS for states that were not included in the federal lawsuits will most likely be applied as written in states where the mandate was blocked, but with updated/delayed dates to allow those providers enough time to come into compliance. At the time of this post we do not know this for sure, and other changes are possible. Please stay tuned for more updates as they become available.
The CMS guidance lays out three important dates for compliance for states that were not affected by the Supreme Court ruling. 30 days after the issuance of QSO-22-07, then 60 days after, and 90 days after. Providers must come closer to “full” compliance on each one of these dates. QSO-22-07 was issued on December 28, 2021. Beginning on January 27, 2022, federal, state, accreditation organization, and CMS-contracted surveyors will begin surveying for compliance as part of initial certification, standard recertification, reaccreditation, and complaint surveys.
At the 30 day mark (January 27th), 100% of your staff (except for fully remote workers and those with religious exemptions) must have received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Policies and procedures for compliance must be developed and implemented by this time. Failure to adhere to these two requirements will make your organization non-compliant under the interim final rule. At the 60 day mark (February 26th), your staff must be fully vaccinated. 90 days after the issue date, providers that are still not in compliance will be subject to enforcement action.
It’s not just vaccine compliance you have to worry about. This guidance gives surveyors many different ways to document violations that could result in massive fines, or even the revocation of your Medicare certification should a violation be deemed severe enough and if your organization fails to come into compliance after a long enough period of time. Now is the time to review your policies and procedures for using PPE and all other infection control procedures. Check all federal, state, and local laws. In certain parts of the country this can be confusing as there could be more restrictive local rules, or conflicting guidance from different authorities. Err on the side of caution and structure your policies to comply with the most comprehensive set of rules to make sure that your staff, patients, and practice are protected.