In 25 states, most healthcare workers should now be fully vaccinated

The Biden administration issued an order requiring most healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccines. Healthcare employees will need to complete their vaccine cycle in a month.

The deadline has arrived in 25 states.

Today, most healthcare organizations in those 25 states are expected to ensure their workers have completed a COVID-19 vaccination cycle.

President Joe Biden’s administration issued the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all healthcare organizations receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid. After heated legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld the administration’s vaccine order last month. The Biden administration says the order is a necessary step to help protect patients and healthcare workers from COVID-19.

About 17 million healthcare workers are required to get vaccinated, the White House estimated. There are limited health and religious exceptions. Those refusing to get vaccinated without a qualifying exemption face the loss of their jobs.

Facilities that don’t comply could face varying penalties, including the loss of Medicare and Medicaid funds, an essential source of aid for virtually all healthcare providers.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services outlined the vaccination schedule in a series of orders over the past couple of months. There are different deadlines for some states that participated in various legal challenges. Most of the nation’s healthcare workers will have to be vaccinated by the end of March.

By now, most healthcare workers in all U.S. states and territories should have completed at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Healthcare advocates have supported the vaccine mandate but asked the government for cooperation as they try to get their workers vaccinated. Some have worried about the vaccine order prompting some workers to quit, adding to a shortage of healthcare workers.

CMS plans to work with healthcare organizations, an agency spokesperson told Chief Healthcare Executive.

“CMS’ goal is to bring health care providers and suppliers into compliance,” the CMS spokesman said via email. “That’s why we will assess the severity of any failures to meet these standards and work with providers to get them back on track before pursuing stronger enforcement measures.”

Nursing homes and home health agencies that don’t comply could face fines and, potentially, lose their funding from Medicare and Medicaid.

For hospitals and other acute care providers, there’s only one enforcement remedy: the loss of Medicare and Medicaid funds. CMS has said that would be the last resort.

Most healthcare workers in these states are required to be fully vaccinated today: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, and Wisconsin.

Healthcare workers in Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories also are required to be vaccinated today.

Workers in these 24 states must have be fully vaccinated by March 15: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Healthcare workers in Texas must be fully vaccinated by March 21. Texas wasn’t part of the Supreme Court case and had a separate legal challenge, which was defeated.

The Biden administration issued a separate order directing large businesses to have their workers vaccinated or submit to regular testing. The Supreme Court found that order to be unconstitutional.

However, the court ruled the Biden administration has the authority to set rules on vaccine policy for organizations receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid.

Earlier this week, a survey found the vaccine mandate and its impact on staffing was one of the top concerns of healthcare finance leaders.

The American Health Care Association, which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities, said last month that 83% of workers in those facilities are fully vaccinated. But the group said it worried the mandate would drive more workers from “an already decimated long term care workforce.”

“We must collectively address the root cause of vaccine hesitancy rather than penalize providers who are making valiant efforts,” the association said last month.

Some states have passed their own laws requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated, and a few states have required healthcare workers to get the booster shots.