An Update from Fisher-Titus on the CMS COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released formal rules outlining COVID-19 vaccination requirements for healthcare facility employees. We at Fisher-Titus thought it would be helpful to provide information on how we are responding to this mandate as the effective dates in the CMS mandate are fast approaching.

Currently, 80% of our staff is either fully vaccinated or have begun the vaccination series. Additionally, our medical staff is 96% vaccinated which includes both Fisher-Titus employed and independent practice physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The CMS mandate states that all eligible staff at healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs receive the first dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson by Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. For vaccines that require the 2-dose series (Moderna and Pfizer), staff must complete the series by Jan. 4, 2022. The CMS mandate defines and allows staff to submit a medical or religious exemption by the Dec. 5 date. In addition, this mandate applies to anyone who provides services to Fisher-Titus including staff, volunteers, students, and vendors. The CMS mandate requires compliance, which may be vaccination or medical or religious exemption.

How this affects Fisher-Titus

Fisher-Titus participates in Medicare and Medicaid governmental payor programs, administered through CMS. In fact, the majority of our patients’ healthcare is covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Failure to comply with the CMS requirements will result in fines, denial of payment, and the risk of termination from Medicare and Medicaid programs. If Fisher-Titus were terminated from these CMS programs, we would no longer be able to provide care for those with Medicare or Medicaid health coverage. Without participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, we financially would not be able to operate; we would be forced to close our doors, no longer able to provide the right care, right here in our community. This would be devastating for our patients and community.

In addition, there has been misinformation circulating in the community suggesting that the higher our vaccinate rate is, the higher reimbursements are. Please know that this is untrue as CMS reimbursement for Medicare or Medicaid is a fixed amount based on such things as: the condition being treated, a facility’s geographic location, adherence to quality standards and an organization’s ability to improve quality of care in a cost-effective manner.

Fisher-Titus employee options

Fisher-Titus has provided options for unvaccinated employees to remain compliant with the CMS mandate that include:

  1. Become fully vaccinated. Per CMS guidance, all eligible staff choosing to become vaccinated must receive the first dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson by Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. For vaccines that require the 2-dose series (Moderna and Pfizer), staff must complete the series by January 4, 2022. We are offering multiple vaccination clinics for staff to ensure receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine is easily accessible. Staff can also choose to be vaccinated at other locations, like retail pharmacies, family medicine providers, or the Health Department.
  2. Submit a medical or religious exemption. The emergency regulation requires healthcare facilities to have a process for exemptions based on recognized medical conditions and sincerely held religious beliefs. Exemption forms will need to be received for review no later than Dec. 5, 2021.
  3. Choose to not become vaccinated or obtain a medical or religious exemption. Being immunized against COVID-19 is an employee’s choice as is pursuing an exemption. However, it is not an acceptable option under the CMS mandate to choose to not become vaccinated against COVID- 19 or receiving a medical or religious exemption and will result in separation from Fisher-Titus.

We would also like our community to understand this is a federal mandate — hospitals are being required to be the enactors. We understand the harsh feelings and sensitivities surrounding any one person’s choice in accepting COVID-19 vaccination and we are doing our best to help employees through this process. Fisher-Titus and all other hospitals and health systems nationwide, are required to comply with the CMS mandate, even while various legal challenges play out within our court system.

During this time of Thanksgiving, we at Fisher-Titus hope for a season of grace, understanding and reconciliation.