Texas Gov Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) Credit: (Rights-managed): Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images

Long-term care operators in Texas are being forced to choose between following state regulations or losing their Medicare and Medicaid pay after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order Monday prohibiting any entity in the state from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees. 

“The combination of the pending federal requirements and a potential state law that would prohibit vaccine mandates would force providers into an untenable position to choose between violating state law or losing its two primary sources of funding,” Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Wednesday. 

Abbott’s order is in direct conflict with President Joe Biden’s federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate to all healthcare settings or risk losing their Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Abbott’s executive order shall “supersede any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster” and those who fail to comply with the executive order could be hit with a $1,000 fine from the state. Providers who do comply could be put in a tough situation when caring for residents on Medicare and Medicaid, according to Warren.  

It’s not entirely clear if the state order would also supersede Biden’s federal mandate, with both sides going back and forth Monday and Tuesday. But the issue has providers worried.

Warren said the executive order, along with several bills filed by lawmakers in Texas on the matter, are creating both “confusion and concern” in light of the pending federal mandate regarding vaccinations for long-term care employees. 

“It is anticipated that failure to comply with the pending federal vaccine mandate could result in the loss of funding,” Warren said. “If that occurs, nursing facilities would not be able to care for their residents who are Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, creating greater access to care issues.”