Following the end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) on May 11th, 2023, the Biden-Harris administration has officially terminated COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees, federal contractors, Head Start educators, CMS-certified healthcare facilities, and international air travelers.
In 2021, the initial vaccination requirements were implemented to safeguard individuals’ health, ensure workplace efficiency, and protect vital sectors of the economy, such as healthcare and education, along with vulnerable populations. The measures were instrumental in protecting these workers and communities by bolstering service provision without disruptions.
In a recent announcement, the administration emphasized a 95% decline in COVID-19 deaths since January 2021 and a 91% drop in hospitalizations. The administration’s decision to end the vaccination requirements follows the significant progress of the vaccination rollout, with the government requirements no longer needed as the world and America transitions into the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
How Will It Impact Healthcare Providers?
Removing the CMS vaccination requirements marks a significant shift in policy, giving healthcare providers greater autonomy in decision-making regarding vaccination requirements. However, it is essential to note that state or local regulations may still impose ongoing COVID-19 vaccination requirements, while certain jurisdictions might prohibit such mandates without the federal requirement.
Emergency Preparedness in Healthcare Facilities
The CMS has also announced a new Emergency Preparedness (EP) training and testing program, superseding the previously issued QSO-20-41-ALL-REVISED memo. Under the latest EP regulations, healthcare providers must test the effectiveness of their EP plans and ensure that all staff members are adequately trained.
Of course, the CMS allows for a one-year exemption from the testing exercise requirement in the case of an actual emergency. The exemption occurs when a provider activates its emergency preparedness program. This regulatory change acknowledges the unique challenges and demands during emergencies, allowing healthcare providers to prioritize their immediate response efforts without compromising patient safety and well-being.
The CMS recognizes the need to balance practical EP training with the operational realities that healthcare providers face during a crisis. By granting this exemption, the CMS aims to provide more flexibility to ensure that healthcare providers maintain their readiness and responsiveness in emergencies.
Furthermore, the CMS hopes the new regulations will encourage healthcare providers to review the updated guidelines and incorporate the exemption into their EP planning and implementation processes.