On Friday November 5, 2021, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all workers at all Medicare/Medicaid-certified healthcare settings.
The rule is intended to protect both healthcare staff and patients against COVID-19. Kingman Regional Medical Center (KRMC) notified staff yesterday of a change in its COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees. “There is no path forward that allows us to receive funding from CMS and not be in compliance. CMS accounts for 75% of services rendered to patients,” said Will McConnell, KRMC CEO.
According to the CMS rule, KRMC must fulfill staff vaccination requirements over the following two phases:
• By December 6, 2021, all KRMC employees must have received, at a minimum, the first dose of a primary series or a single dose COVID-19 vaccine or have begun the process for medical or religious exemption.
• By Jan. 4, 2022, all eligible staff must have completed the primary vaccination series (e.g., second dose of mRNA vaccine) or have been granted a medical or religious exemption.
Until now, KRMC’s COVID vaccination policy has been voluntary based on individual choice. Through the interim final rule issued by CMS, compliance is a condition of participation for all healthcare facilities that receive payments from CMS. As such, all KRMC employees are required to get the COVID vaccine, unless they obtain an authorized medical or religious exemption.
According to McConnell, “We encourage vaccination as the most safe and effective approach to help prevent serious illness and reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Due to our belief that the COVID-19 vaccine should be an individual’s personal choice, we have not previously made it mandatory for any KRMC employee. With the new CMS rule, there is no other option.”
Currently, about 68% of KRMC’s workforce is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The new rule will affect about 600 employees who remain unvaccinated.