State ban on vaccine mandates could lose private Montana hospitals funding

Under a proposed CMS rule, private hospitals must have all their employees vaccinated against COVID-19, creating a dilemma for the state of Montana, which has banned private businesses from mandating vaccines, CEO of Billings (Mont.) Clinic CEO Scott Ellner, DO, told NPR on Oct. 31.

At Billings Clinic, about two-thirds of employees are vaccinated. Without CMS funding, the facility would lose about 51 percent of its revenue, which would be unsustainable to continue clinical operations, Dr. Ellner said.

He also said Billings Clinic's intensive care units are at 150 percent capacity, with 85 percent of the ICU filled with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Ellner said the facility is frequently speaking with state legislators and discussing how to navigate a legal challenge if it comes to that. Billings Clinic is also working to educate the public and staff about the vaccine, he said.

"It's going to be a difficult situation," Dr. Ellner said. "You know, we have a state law that prevents us from mandating the vaccine. And then we have CMS, which could potentially withhold important funds to sustain and support our clinical services. It really is kind of a no-win situation for us either way ... So we wish it was beyond politics and more about what we can do right for the patients."

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