Alaska hospital workers would conduct telehealth services to bypass vaccine mandate under new bill

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The Alaska Senate voted Sept. 10 to advance a telehealth bill that allows hospital workers to opt out of vaccine mandates, according to a Sept. 10 Anchorage Daily News report.

Six things to know:

  1. The bill was introduced by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy to temporarily allow healthcare employees to write prescriptions and meet with patients through virtual care so they don't have to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The bill would also temporarily exempt new hires from having to get a state-mandated background check to work at hospitals.

  2. On Sept. 10, senators voted to insert three amendments into the bill. The first amendment would allow a positive COVID-19 test or evidence of antibodies to waive vaccine requirements. The second amendment allows employees to object to getting a COVID-19 vaccine based on medical, religious or philosophical grounds. The third amendment blocks businesses or public agencies from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine to access services or an area open to the public.

  3. The bill originally failed to secure the number of votes it needed to pass, but four senators changed their votes in favor of the bill. Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said he switched his vote because he was told the three added amendments would be removed in the House.

  4. Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Speaker of the House Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, said there was no such deal made.

  5. If the House does remove the three amendments, the bill will go back to the Senate for voting.

  6. Bills passed by the Senate go to Mr. Dunleavy's desk, who originally introduced the bill, for final approval.

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