The CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) recently issued a COVID vaccination mandate for all healthcare facilities that receive compensation from either Medicare or Medicaid.

However, in a conversation with KGVO Radio on Wednesday, Chairman of the Montana Hospital Association, Rich Rasmussen said there are two important possible exceptions to the order from CMS.

Rasmussen first related the policy from CMS.

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the agency that reimburses hospitals for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients,” said Rasmussen. “And so as a condition of participating in that program, hospitals have to agree to certain requirements. CMS has the authority to force hospitals to meet these conditions, and one of them now is that our employees must all be vaccinated or meet one of the two exceptions or exemptions that are created in the rule.”

Rasmussen then related the two exceptions to the CMS ruling.

“One is an exception for individuals that hold a deeply felt religious belief that they believe that the vaccination is in conflict with that deeply held religious belief,” he said. “The second one is one in which they have a health concern that the vaccine could conflict with their health concerns.”

Rasmussen said the financial impact of losing funding from Medicare and Medicaid would drive a hospital to bankruptcy.

“If hospitals don't abide by that, they are at risk of losing as much as 67 percent of the total revenues that they will take in,” he said. “Those revenues are the dollars that hospitals receive from treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. In Montana, the collective value of all of that is more than $2.1 billion. These healthcare organizations employ over 30,000 people, so all of those jobs would be placed at risk.”

Rasmussen said the exemptions have been historically part of the CMS policy.

“Historically, CMS has allowed that exception and the scope of that exception to be defined further defined by the provider,” he said. “So if the provider grants an exception, regardless of its scope, all CMS is going to look at is whether or not the exception that was granted, aligned with the federal rule.”

It was feared by some healthcare agencies that there would be no exemptions from the vaccination mandate.

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