Late yesterday afternoon, the Biden Administration announced a new “six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy” to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement was covered extensively in the media, especially with respect to new vaccination requirements. Here’s what healthcare providers and their practices need to know:
Waiting on Details
As of now, there are no new requirements in place for healthcare providers and their practices. That will change soon as federal agencies promulgate rules in accordance with the new COVID-19 Action Plan. Currently, the timetable for agencies to issue rules implementing the various components of the plan remains unclear. Although the Biden Administration did issue two new executive orders concerning COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees and COVID-19 safety protocols for federal contractors, these orders are unlikely to have a direct impact on the vast majority of healthcare providers and practices.
Proposed OSHA Requirements Concerning Vaccination and COVID-19 Testing
As part of the new plan, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) will develop a rule that “will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” In addition, the new rule will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination.
To implement these requirements, OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) in the coming days. The Biden Administration anticipates that this “requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.”
Proposed CMS Requirements Concerning Vaccination of Healthcare Workers
In addition to the proposed OSHA requirements, the new COVID-19 Action Plan calls for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to require “COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies.” According to the Biden Administration, this action “builds on the vaccination requirement for nursing facilities recently announced by CMS, and will apply to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS-regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care.” The Biden Administration further anticipates that these requirements “will apply to approximately 50,000 providers and cover a majority of health care workers across the country.” The aim, according to the Administration, is to “create a consistent standard across the country, while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care.”
We anticipate that rules implementing the proposed OSHA and CMS requirements to be issued in the coming days. We will continue to provide updates as we learn more.
The COVID-19 pandemic and response is an evolving situation. All levels of government are engaged in the process of preparing new legislation, regulations and orders both to stem the spread of the virus and to provide relief to employers and employees. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as applicable, especially as such updates affect healthcare providers and their practices.