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Federal Vaccine Mandates Are Back in Play (For Now)

The courts continue to move the vaccine mandate goalposts on employers as dozens of legal challenges work their way through the courts. The latest developments are major game changers for employers. As of today, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) vaccine-or-test rule is enforceable nationwide, and the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Interim Final Rule (IFR) mandating vaccination, subject to exemptions, is enforceable in 25 states.

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

On October 4, 2021, the US Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs.

Employers have grown more interested in exploring incentives designed to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among employees. Some employers have announced plans to charge unvaccinated employees higher contributions for health coverage than vaccinated employees, while some have been considering other options, such as excluding coverage for COVID-related illnesses, charging higher cost-sharing for COVID-19-related illnesses and offering more generous plan options to employees who are vaccinated.

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California Requires Vaccines or Regular COVID-19 Testing for Certain Healthcare Workers and State Employees

On July 26, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a new Order that impacts healthcare and state employers in California. According to McDermott’s Michelle S. Strowhiro, Ellen M. Bronchetti and Ludia Kwon, the CDPH Order requires that almost all healthcare employers verify the vaccination status of all of their workers.

The Order also requires workers who are not fully vaccinated to go through regular COVID-19 testing at specified intervals. These facilities also must have a plan in place for tracking verified worker vaccination statuses.

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