Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Credit: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Credit: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is cutting Kansas’ Medicaid funding by nearly $350,000 for not enforcing the federal healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate in nursing homes and hospitals. 

Providers view the move as a warning of what could come if the rule isn’t enforced in their respective states.

CMS notified Kansas officials of the $348,723 funding reduction in a March 18 letter following the state’s refusal to survey and certify providers’ compliance with the vaccination rule, according to a report by the Kansas City Star. 

The agency said the funding reduction is based on the estimated costs of federal oversight of the vaccination requirement in the state.

“While we are disappointed in Kansas’ approach to meeting its survey and certification requirements, please be assured that CMS will continue to take every step possible to ensure the safety of patients and that federal funds are efficiently administered,” wrote Jon Blum, CMS principal deputy administrator and COO. 

It wasn’t immediately clear if CMS has sent similar letters to other states. The agency did not respond to a request for comment by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News by production deadline. 

Gov. Laura Kelly (R) on Tuesday said that despite the funding cut, Kansas state surveyors still won’t enforce the federal mandate. 

“Kansas employees should not be required to enforce a federal mandate this late in the pandemic,” she said in a statement to local media. “CMS leadership has assured me they’re working with facilities and will not take punitive measures.” 

Kelly’s decision appears to set a precedent for other states to refuse to enforce the federal mandate and face a “relatively light penalty,” according to Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association.

“From a risk-reward perspective, many states may decide it’s worth retaining unvaccinated workers amidst an unprecedented workforce crisis at the cost of losing some survey funding,” he told McKnight’s on Wednesday. 

LeadingAge Florida said it’s not aware of similar communication from CMS to its state, considering Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has also pledged that the state would not enforce surveyors to check for compliance to the mandate.

“We continue to track the vaccination data for our members and reach out to any providers who may need help,” Nick Van Der Linden, director of communications, told McKnight’s. “We’ve also seen great success with our education campaign to assist our members remain in compliance with CMS requirements.”