Cropped image of nurse injecting Covid-19 Vaccine to a patient.
Credit: Morsa Images/Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could opt to keep its new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers beyond the public healthcare crisis, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A formal comment period for the emergency regulation runs through Jan, 4, 2022, which should serve as an opportunity for CMS to answer several key questions — including whether to make the rule permanent.

“The new rule is not tied to the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), and CMS expects that it will ‘remain relevant for some time beyond’ the PHE end,” KFF author MaryBeth Musumeci wrote Wednesday. “Medicare interim final rules expire after three years unless they are finalized.”

How long the regulation will last will also depend on the result of several lawsuits filed by states challenging the rule, KFF noted. One group of 10 states and a separate group with another 12 have both filed suits to stop the regulation. On Thursday, Florida joined the fray, too. 

If courts ultimately uphold the rule and the vaccine mandate kicks in fully, CMS also will likely consider how it impacts staffing levels at healthcare facilities and whether enforcement efforts are sufficient. 

“CMS says that provider compliance with the new rule will be part of the existing oversight process through which state or federal inspectors review all Medicare and Medicaid program requirements,” Musumeci wrote. “CMS envisions that inspectors will review facility policies and records and conduct staff interviews to verify vaccination status.”