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What's the current legal status of the vaccine mandates in the US?

Vaccines and mandates - those trending buzzwords have created a whirlwind of emotions and events that will go down in history. The U.S. Supreme Court has been hearing and deciding on valid arguments regarding the recent mandates for some time now.


But what are the two recent federal rulings regarding the vaccine mandates (and what requirements should large and small employers know about)?


OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

OSHA went on the offensive against the coronavirus outbreak and established an ETS that required vaccination or testing of all private employers with 100 or more employees. According to this mandate, all employees must be:

a) fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or

b) submit to regular testing and wear face masks to work every day.


These requirements were met with some concern over how workers and recruiters would respond. The Supreme Court stayed the ETS - OSHA was exercising more power than it had been given and could only regulate workplace dangers, not public health.


As of January 25, 2022, employers do not need to comply with OSHA's COVID-19 ETS, which the agency withdrew - but OSHA stated it would continue to advocate for a permanent ruling for the ETS. Besides, employers can still choose to set vaccine and mask requirements that their employees will need to comply with (or find somewhere else to work).


Health Care Worker Rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

CMS rulings will require healthcare workers and staff working for Medicare and Medicaid-certified providers/suppliers to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or request a religious or medical exemption.


Temporary injunctions were blocking the ruling on the same grounds as the OSHA ETS, but the Supreme Court dissolved the stays and enforced the mandates for healthcare staff as of January 13, 2022.


Coverage of OTC COVID-19 Tests

With over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests gaining popularity and approval, the federal administration has made purchasing these at-home tests even more accessible - by requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests bought for individual diagnosis.


This ruling happened on January 15, 2022, and faced backlash from health insurers and plan issuers who would now have to bear higher up-front costs. But the verdict remains, and insurers will place some coverage limits, including:

  • requiring individuals to buy a test and submit a claim for reimbursement.

  • providing coverage through pharmacy networks or direct-to-consumer shipping initiatives.

  • limiting the frequency and number of tests that can be covered.

  • preventing, detecting, and addressing abuse and fraud.

However, this new rule doesn't apply to tests required for employment objectives. Coverage is offered ONLY for individual purposes.


Stay in the loop about legal updates regarding the vaccine, business health insurance benefits, and other health insurance topics with NY Small Health.

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