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Montana hospitals say they’ll "work to comply" with federal vaccine mandate

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Posted at 3:54 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 18:16:08-04

Montana hospitals said Friday they will “work to comply” with the Biden administration’s mandate that all healthcare facilities receiving federal funding must require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID.

The federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the main federal health insurance programs, says that its interim rule issued Thursday supersedes any state laws against mandate, according to the Montana Hospital Association, which represents Montana hospitals.

A new Montana law, passed several months ago by the Montana Legislature, prohibits most private businesses from requiring their employees to be vaccinated. It is being challenged in state and federal court by two lawsuits, including one filed by physicians and other medical personnel.

The MHA said ignoring the CMS rule could lead to loss of federal funds under those programs, which serve hundreds of thousands of Montanans – most of them elderly, poor, and/or disabled, MHA said.

“The loss of care not only would have a negative impact on the health of our affected neighbors, it would jeopardize the financial viability and continued operations of healthcare providers,” it said in a statement.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s office has indicated it will file legal action to challenge the federal CMS rule.

The CMS rule says employees of hospitals and other medical facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid funding must be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022. It allows exemptions for staff with “recognized medical conditions” or based on religious beliefs.

MHA said CMS rules are designed to “ensure a high standard of care and a safe health-care setting for both providing and receiving care... In order to protect patients, healthcare workers, and preserve access to healthcare services for our communities, Montana hospitals and healthcare providers will work to comply with the federal requirement.”