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Governor: State surveyors will not enforce CMS COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 3:21 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has confirmed that state surveyors will not report compliance with the CMS COVID-19 vaccine mandate as part of their surveys.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says on Tuesday, March 29, the State of Kansas reached an agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to confirm state employees who survey CMS-funded facilities in Kansas will not enforce COVID-19 vaccine mandates as part of those surveys.

Gov. Kelly said surveyors ensure compliance with rules, requirements and regulations in public and private health care facilities. She said the agreement follows negotiations with Health and Human Services and CMS leadership which started in late 2021.

“I’ve consistently opposed federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements because the responsibility was given to the states to make these decisions,” Kelly said. “Kansas employees should not be required to enforce a federal mandate this late in the pandemic. In addition, mandates like this could further intensify the workforce shortage we are experiencing in our health care facilities throughout the state. CMS leadership has assured me they’re working with facilities and will not take punitive measures.”

Kelly said the agreement follows months-long negotiations between her administration and HHS Senior staff, which led to a meeting between herself and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Jan. 29. During the meeting, she said they discussed concerns about the mandate’s impact on already struggling rural health care facilities in the Sunflower State.

Following the meeting, which Kelly called productive, she said she directed staff and agencies to work with CMS to find a path ahead that protects the workforce, ensures patient and resident safety and complies with existing.

Kelly said the U.S. Supreme Court stayed two preliminary injunctions against the rule on Jan. 13, 2022, which allowed implementation of the CMS COVID vaccine mandate. She announced an executive directive to ensure state-run facilities follow state law regarding medical and religious exemptions, documentation, and self-attestation.

However, the Governor also said state surveyors from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment survey state and private health care facilities. Therefore, she said private facilities fell outside the authority of the executive directive.

Kelly said CMS confirmed with her administration that they will work with facilities on compliance with the mandate. Additionally, she said CMS indicated they have no interest in terminating funding agreements with facilities that struggle with the implementation of the mandate among their workforce.

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