Physician Leaders Forum
Building on the information shared during the Physicians Leaders Forum in June, this virtual session will focus on physician resilience and wellbeing in a post-COVID environment. A panel discussion will highlight strategies currently being used in Kansas to address physician and health care worker resilience. This event—co-presented by KMS and the Kansas Hospital Association—will be from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2021. More information and free registration here: www.kmsonline.org/PhysicianLeadersForum.
2022 Advocacy Day
We are planning to hold the 2022 Advocacy Day in person on January 25 in Topeka. Among other things, Advocacy Day will offer a chance to hear from KMS leadership about the upcoming legislative session, to meet with legislative leaders, and to meet with your specialty society peers. While some specialty societies may also hold events later in the year, Advocacy Day is the one event of the year for all Kansas physicians. More information about Advocacy Day will be forthcoming. In the meantime, you may register here: www.kmsonline.org/AdvocacyDay.
Guidance on recent vaccine mandate developments
Part of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate — the one issued for large employers — is currently on hold after a federal appeals court blocked it from going into effect.
The temporarily blocked regulation had come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and would require employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated for COVID-19, or to test unvaccinated staff weekly and require them to wear masks.
The OSHA regulation is one of two parts of the administration’s vaccine mandate. The other part — which was not blocked by the court ruling — is a regulation from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS regulation does not apply to independent physician practice settings, but it does affect staff (including physician contractors and those with admitting privileges) at hospitals, nursing homes, federally qualified health centers, and other large health care facilities. Facilities covered by this regulation are required to establish policies to ensure that:
- Eligible staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment, or other services by Dec. 5;
- Eligible staff are fully vaccinated by Jan. 4; and
- Any exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs are aligned with federal law.
This CMS regulation is currently in effect.
The case involving the temporarily blocked OSHA regulation was moved this week to another appeals court, which will rule on 34 similar lawsuits, including one that Kansas has joined. It is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the case.
KAMMCO has issued this guidance on both the CMS and OSHA regulations.
Legislature set for special session
Late last week, legislative leadership announced that they had secured enough signatures for a petition requiring the governor to call the Legislature into special session to address the federal vaccine mandate, which is now being challenged in court.
The special session — set to start Monday, Nov. 22 — is intended to address two bills:
- A proposal that would allow Kansans to collect unemployment benefits if they’re fired for refusing to comply with the federal vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more employees; and
- A proposal that would allow Kansans to declare an exemption from the vaccine mandate based on their sincerely held religious belief or a medical reason. The bill would prevent businesses from asking questions to determine the veracity of a claim about a sincerely held religious belief. The bill would also allow anyone who was denied a religious waiver to file a lawsuit in which they could recover both actual damages and their attorney’s fees.
This is the first time the Kansas Legislature has called itself into special session. The regular session is scheduled to begin Jan. 10, 2022.