House bill seeks to end CMS' COVID-19 vaccine rule for healthcare facilities

The House passed a bill Jan. 31 that would invalidate the Biden administration's rule that requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they work in healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

The Freedom for Healthcare Workers Act — introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina with about 70 Republican co-sponsors — passed in a 227-203 vote.

In a Jan. 31 news release, Mr. Duncan described the vote as "a win for medical freedom and individual liberty."

The measure calls for nullifying the healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccination rule issued by CMS earlier in the pandemic, and would ban the issuance of any substantially similar rule. 

In November 2021, CMS announced the vaccination mandate covering healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid. 

The rule, which includes medical and religious exemptions, has been the subject of challenges by some states, including a coalition of 22 states that filed a petition in December seeking to repeal the rule.

Prsident Biden has indicated he would veto the Freedom for Healthcare Workers Act if it were to pass Congress.

"While COVID-19 is no longer the disruptive threat that it once was, it makes no sense for Congress to reverse this protection for vulnerable patients, as well as our healthcare workers who have given so much to protect us," his administration wrote Jan. 30 in response to the proposed legislation.

With that in mind, the Jan. 31 House vote was largely a symbolic gesture to indicate opposition to the Biden administration's COVID-19 policies, according to The Hill.

The vote came after the Biden administration informed Congress Jan. 30 that it plans to end the COVID-19 national and public health emergencies on May 11.

However, the vaccination requirements for healthcare workers, which have been supported by medical groups including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, are not contingent on the public health emergency remaining in effect, according to The Hill.

"The requirement is set to expire in November 2024 if CMS does not take additional action,” a spokesperson for CMS said in a statement to the publication.


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