At the request of the state of Texas, the federal court has dismissed that state’s challenge to the Omnibus Covid-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Rule. As a result, facilities within that state will now be subject to the requirements of the Rule. The CMS has set the following deadlines for compliance within the state:
Phase 1: As of February 22, 2022, all covered individuals must have either completed the initial dose of a primary series of vaccine or applied for an exemption for religious or health reasons.
Phase 2: As of March 21, 2022, all covered individuals must have either completed the primary series of vaccine or been approved for an exemption for religious or health reasons. The employee need not have passed through the two-week post-vaccination period that generally defines complete vaccination; they need only have received their complete series of vaccines.
The CMS Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule survived its initial trip to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 13 with a per curiam decision that stayed injunctions placed on the rule by federal district courts in December.
The Supreme Court took the rare action of holding oral argument and then issuing a full opinion (with dissents) on the emergency stay application that had been brought by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, asking the Court to allow the agency to enforce the rule while challenges to its validity continue in the lower federal courts.
The Court was definitive that the rule as published falls within the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate based on the statutory authority conferred by Congress through the Social Security Act (SSA). Specifically, the court found that the various statutory provisions within the SSA allow the Secretary to impose conditions of participation on the receipt of Medicare and Medicaid funds that are necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who furnish services reimbursable under those programs and the federal program beneficiaries that they serve.
However, the Court’s opinion still leaves some questions unanswered about whether the rule will be enforceable in Texas and whether eventually some facilities may be exempted.
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