CMS Issues Emergency Regulation Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for Health Care Staff

November 05, 2021 - Meghan G. Riordan and Matthew P. Utecht
On November 4, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an emergency regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination of eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in the CMS reimbursement programs. This regulation applies to the following facilities that accept Medicare and/or Medicaid:
  • Long Term Care Facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Home Health and Hospice Agencies
  • Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly
  • Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities
  • Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facilities
  • Critical Access Hospitals
  • Clinics (rehabilitation agencies and public health agencies as providers of outpatient physical therapy and speech-language pathology services)
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Home Infusion Therapy Suppliers
  • Rural Health Clinics/Federally Qualified Health Centers
  • End-Stage Renal Disease Facilities

The regulation requires that these facilities establish a policy ensuring all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose or one-dose COVID-19 vaccine by December 5, 2021, with all eligible staff being fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022. The regulation provides for exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, observances, or practices, which must be included in the facilities’ policy. CMS has indicated that it will ensure compliance with these requirements through established surveys and enforcement processes. 

Every facility under this regulation should prepare and implement policies to ensure all eligible staff are vaccinated within the allotted time frames, taking into account exemptions, as required. Facilities that fail to implement appropriate policies could face enforcement processes by CMS. Please contact Meghan Riordan or Matt Utecht with HSB’s Healthcare Practice should you have questions about this regulation.