DeSantis casts aside CMS vaccine rule for hospitals

The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will not enforce a federal mandate for COVID-19 vaccination in healthcare settings, which the Supreme Court upheld Jan. 13. 

"The state of Florida is not going to serve as the Biden administration's biomedical police," a spokesperson for Mr. DeSantis wrote in an email Jan. 13 to the USA TODAY Network-Florida

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the regulation issued by CMS that mandates vaccines for almost all employees at hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare providers that receive federal funds. The court said the regulation was in line with detailed conditions that CMS requires for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. 

CMS issued the rule in November, but several court challenges prevented the agency from enforcing it nationwide, which the Supreme Court ruling clears. 

Remarks from the governor's office conflict with those from the Florida Hospital Association. 

"Yesterday's U.S. Supreme court decision makes clear that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services can implement and enforce vaccination requirements for nearly all employees of healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs," Mary Mayhew, FHA president and CEO, said in a written statement to Becker's

"Florida's hospitals are committed to ensuring access to care for millions of elderly Floridians who depend on Medicare. Hospitals are obligated to remain compliant with the programs' conditions of participation and must comply with this federal vaccine requirement now upheld by the highest court. Hospitals do not want to be caught between the state and federal governments and may still need clarity from the courts regarding federal preemption regarding the Florida state law."

A spokesperson for Mr. DeSantis said Florida's prohibition on vaccine mandates remains in effect for all industries, and there are no industry-specific loopholes. The prohibition includes fines up to $50,000 per employee violation. "We will be evaluating next steps for enforcement in the coming days," the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Tallahassee Democrat. 

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