Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Republican)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Credit: Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has withheld $1.2 million in funding from Florida over the state’s refusal to monitor facilities ability to meet the federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers.  

The national vaccine mandate went into effect in Florida in late February. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has not reported whether providers are in compliance with the vaccine requirement since the requirement went into effect. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in January pledged that the state would not enforce the regulation. 

CMS has been paying contractors to check provider compliance instead — reducing the state’s survey and certification funding by $1.2 million in order to do so, Finger Lakes Times reported over the weekend.

“$1.2 million is a small price to pay to protect the freedom of healthcare workers,” Brock Juarez, communications director for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, told the newspaper. 

“The concept that the Biden Administration would tie Medicare and Medicaid funding to a vaccination mandate – funding that pays for medical care for children, the elderly, disabled, and low income individuals is half-baked public policy,” Juarez added. “I would be surprised if that was the route they choose to take.”

The Supreme Court, however, effectively backed that approach as legal in a 5-4 January decision that lifted an injunction against it.

The conflict between the state and CMS will likely have little impact on providers, according to Nick Van Der Linden, LeadingAge Florida’s director of communications. 

Federal data shows that 87.1% of nursing home staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Just over 83% of nursing home workers have been fully vaccinated in Florida.

“Our focus from the very beginning has been on education. We have conducted hundreds of member calls where we provide the latest information so our members can help educate their residents and staff. That includes education about the vaccine and how members can educate their staff about the importance,” he told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Thursday. 

“As a result, our members have worked diligently to get their residents and staff vaccinated and are in compliance with federal vaccine requirements,” he added. 

CMS has previously warned that states could lose federal financial support budgeted for the survey process if they didn’t comply with the vaccine mandate.

The state of Kansas has also lost nearly $350,000 in federal funding for not enforcing the federal healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate in nursing homes and hospitals.