CMS Withdraws Vaccine Requirement for Health Care Workers

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. June 5, 2023

In a final rule published in the Federal Register June 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) withdrew its requirement that health care workers get the COVID-19 vaccine. Other CMS requirements surrounding COVID-19 vaccines will remain. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Vaccination Provisions Revoked

"We are withdrawing the health care staff COVID-19 vaccination provisions. We strongly encourage facilities, when the opportunity exists and resources allow, to facilitate the vaccination and education of all individuals who provide services infrequently or frequently," the CMS wrote in its rule's analysis of and response to public comments.

The CMS explained in its supplementary information to the rule that as conditions and circumstances of the COVID-19 public health emergency have evolved, "so too has CMS' response." At this point in time, the agency believes that the risks targeted by the staff vaccination requirement "have been largely addressed," so it is now aligning its approach with those for other infectious diseases, specifically influenza. "Accordingly, [the] CMS intends to encourage ongoing COVID-19 vaccination through its quality reporting and value-based incentive programs in the near future." 

(Federal Register)

Effective Date

The rule will take effect on or about Aug. 4. While the final rule is not yet effective, the CMS said it does not intend to enforce staff vaccination requirements before the effective date of the final rule.

(Jackson Lewis)

Quality Measures

The CMS will continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers and their patients through quality measures that tie to health care reimbursement. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will continue to use vaccination-related quality measures that impact ratings and payments in various programs, such as the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System and the Hospital Inpatient and Outpatient Quality Reporting Programs.

The rule also eliminates the long-term care facility COVID-19 testing requirements, which had already expired. The rule finalizes requirements for long-term care facilities to provide education about the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccines and to offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents, clients and staff. Since long-term care facility staff may be required to take a COVID-19 vaccine in some states or by some employers, the CMS declined to include explicit permission to refuse vaccination in its rule.

The long-term care facility must maintain, at a minimum, evidence that staff were informed about the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. The facility also must document that staff were offered the vaccine or provided with information on getting the vaccine. The staff's COVID-19 vaccine statuses must be documented and reported by long-term care facilities to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Healthcare Safety Network.

(Revcycle Intelligence) and (Federal Register)

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers Ended in May

The Biden administration announced on May 1 that the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal employees, federal contractors and some health care workers would end on May 11, the same day the public health emergency ended.

(SHRM Online)



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