UPDATED: Two Major Changes Address Living-With-COVID Concerns
Posted on January 11, 2022 by Carol Hill
TWO MAJOR CHANGES ADDRESS LIVING-WITH-COVID CONCERNS:
A national vaccination mandate directed at employers with more than 100 employees became effective 1/10/2022. Although the U.S. Supreme Court expedited oral arguments regarding judicial stays facing the mandate, the Court’s failure to do so to date means that covered employers should be prepared to comply. Under the mandate, employers with more than 100 employees must:
- Have a process in place to ensure employees are vaccinated and tracks employees’ vaccination status;
- Track employee infections;
- Bars infectious workers from the workplace;
- Ensures any unvaccinated workers wear a mask while indoors.
Beginning February 9th, any unvaccinated workers must take weekly COVID-19 tests as well.
While the mandate covers approximately 84 million workers, it does not apply to businesses whose employees don’t report to a central workplace, or those whose employees work at home or outdoors.
The mandate is issued as an emergency temporary standard, meaning it can stay in place for six months.
Read more, here: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/exreq/pages/details.aspx?erid=1753
Additionally, in an effort to help Americans “live their lives” (including visiting relatives and attending school), another federal mandate beginning on Saturday, January 15th, requires private insurance companies to cover the cost of up to eight at-home COVID tests per month for each covered individual. Covered individuals can find out from their insurer if it provides direct coverage or whether they will need to submit a claim for reimbursement. The mandate also incentivizes insurers to cover these costs up front and ensures individuals do not need a prescription from their health care provider to access tests for free.
Under the plan, consumers with private insurance will be able to obtain test without any cost-sharing such as deductibles, co-insurance or copayments.
The new policy does not apply to Medicare and Medicaid already covers the cost of at-home COVID tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
Read more, here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/01/10/biden-harris-administration-requires-insurance-companies-group-health-plans-to-cover-cost-at-home-covid-19-tests-increasing-access-free-tests.html
On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the implementation of federal vaccine-or-test mandate on private businesses of 100 or more workers. The court found that applicants challenging the mandate were “likely to prevail,” because although OSHA is empowered to “set workplace safety and health standards,” they are not empowered to set “broad public health measures” and “although COVID-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most.”
As a result, the requirement will not be enforced while the case is pending, so businesses with 100 or more employees who were to be subject to the mandate are not required to create and enforce policies, maintain vaccination records or provide time off for vaccination.
As to the enforcement of a vaccination rule covering healthcare providers receiving federal funding, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the mandate, stating that “healthcare facilities that wish to participate in Medicare and Medicaid have always been obligated to satisfy a host of conditions that address the safe and effective provision of healthcare.” According to the court, a COVID-19 vaccination requirement is consistent with those conditions, subject to religious and medical exemptions.
You can find the full opinions, here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a240_d18e.pdf
Stay tuned for more updates as this and other COVID-related laws continue to wind their way through the judicial system.