State’s dispute over federal vaccine mandate creates conflict for Florida healthcare systems

Clash could soon impact hospitals, nursing homes

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pledge to put up a fight against the federal vaccine mandate issued by President Joe Biden has created a conflict within the state’s healthcare system.

The clash could soon impact hospitals and nursing homes. Nursing homes will have no choice but to comply with federal regulators, according to Kristen Knapp.

Knapp is the director of communication for the Florida Health Care Association which represents hundreds of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state.

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“Federal law preempts any state laws, we have to comply with federal law otherwise we are in jeopardy of losing the Medicaid funding and are in jeopardy of being cited for violation for not being in compliance,” Knapp said.

The federal vaccine mandate requires companies with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their staff by Jan. 4. However, some Republican state leaders rolled out some bills that could complicate the federal guidance.

The bills would prevent companies from mandating vaccines unless they provide five exemptions including pregnancy, religion or proof of immunity from COVID-19 infection.

“In Florida, we’re at about 60% of the staff being vaccinated, we are seeing those numbers slowly going up,” Knapp said.

The bills will be filed on Monday when the special session begins. If the measure becomes law, employers who terminate their employees over their vaccination status could face up to $50,000 in fines per violation.

Knapp said these changes complicate a workforce already struggling.

“We are a little concerned that the mandate comes in a time when we’re experiencing a workforce crisis so there is always that concern that you may have staff that chooses to leave and go and work in another profession.”