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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Montana health care providers say they'll comply with CMS mandate, require staff to get COVID-19 vac

Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.
Courtesy Billings Clinic
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Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.

A group of Montana health care providers says it plans to require staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even as state law bans such mandates and federal vaccine mandates are being challenged in court.

St. Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health and Billings Clinic said in a statement on Tuesday that “Bottom line, to ensure that we can continue caring for tens of thousands of patients covered by Medicare/Medicaid, we are requiring our healthcare workers to become vaccinated against COVID-19 as outlined by the final interim rule.”

A rule issued earlier this month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says hospitals and clinics that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding must require staff to get vaccinated. It’s separate from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s vaccine mandate, which has been temporarily blocked in federal court.

St. Vincent, RiverStone and Billings Clinic say health care staff need to start getting vaccinated in the next three weeks before the first compliance deadline, with some exemptions.

“Each of our organizations are in the process of planning for the collection and evaluation of those requests,” the trio says in the statement.

As it’s written, the CMS interim rule supersedes local and state laws, including Montana’s ban on vaccine mandates.

Montana is one of several states suing the Biden administration over its vaccine mandates. Attorney General Austin Knudsen says the CMS rule “threatens to further burden the health care sector and patient well-being in Montana,” where many facilities are experiencing worker shortages.

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