Florida drops appeal against federal vaccination rule for healthcare workers

Florida has dropped its challenge of the CMS COVID-19 vaccination requirements for healthcare workers, although the governor has continued to say his office does not intend to enforce the rule, the Miami Herald reported Jan. 24. 

The move came after the Supreme Court on Jan. 13 upheld the CMS rule, which applies to healthcare facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

In November, a Pensacola-based federal court denied Florida's request to block the vaccination requirements. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's office filed an appeal of that decision, and on Jan. 21 it filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, citing the Supreme Court ruling, according to the Miami Herald.

CMS has issued a patchwork of COVID-19 vaccination deadlines in states to comply with the agency's mandate. In Florida, the deadline for healthcare facilities to ensure staff have received at least one dose is Jan. 27. The deadline to ensure staff are fully vaccinated is Feb. 28.  

The office of Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state will not enforce the mandate. Mr. DeSantis also signed a law Nov. 18 prohibiting vaccination mandates for private employers unless also providing various exemptions, which include medical or religious concerns; pregnancy or anticipated future pregnancy; and past COVID-19 infection. The legislation also imposes a fine of up to $50,000 per employee violation.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller said after the Supreme Court ruling that her agency won't "survey for compliance with the CMS vaccine mandate rule," according to the Miami Herald.

Meanwhile, various healthcare facilities in Florida have told Becker's via written statements that they are working on compliance.

Mary Mayhew, Florida Hospital Association president and CEO, told NPR after the Supreme Court ruling that hospitals "don't want to be caught between the state government and the federal government" and were working on addressing the situation.

"You can't be in compliance with both based upon the breadth of exemptions that exist within the state law," she said. "So hospitals are working very closely with their staff, first of all, to encourage them to get vaccinated, but then to identify where there are exemptions that fit within the Medicare rule. Where we become potentially at odds with the state requirement is if an employee fails to fit."

The CMS rule requires healthcare facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to establish a policy ensuring eligible workers are fully vaccinated, with exemptions allowed based on religious beliefs or recognized medical conditions. Facilities that don't comply could, as a last resort, face losing funding from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

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