Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on the CMS Vaccine Mandate

Published: Dec. 1, 2021
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On Monday, Nov. 29, a preliminary injunction was granted related to the recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate in the wake of a Nov. 10 lawsuit filed by 10 states, including Nebraska and Iowa. This new action and pending legal decision will be followed closely in the coming weeks.

This does not change the status of the original health system mandate, enacted in August, which requires staff to be vaccinated or have an approved exemption on file. We are still, however, requiring all exemptions to be reviewed under the new CMS guidelines and on the new form. At this time, that process has not changed. Employees not in compliance by Dec. 5 will face corrective action including and up to suspension and termination.


What's the difference between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruling and the CMS ruling?

While the OSHA mandate is currently on hold, the CMS mandate, if upheld, would supersede the OSHA mandate. Similarly, while the state of Iowa has ruled that no organization can require employee vaccination, the federal-level CMS ruling overrides it.


 What are my options?

  1. Receive first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine, with proof sent to Employee Health by 4 p.m. on Dec. 3.
  2. Submit a new exemption request that meets the federal guidelines and, if you qualify, receive approval by 4 p.m. on Dec. 3.
  3. Begin the termination process due to noncompliance with CMS regulations.


What are the timelines/deadlines? 

Nov. 5: CMS ruling announced

Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.: Methodist deadline for receipt of vaccination proof or, if you qualify, accepted exemption

Dec. 5: CMS deadline to have received first dose (of two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine) or to have received one-dose vaccine (i.e., Johnson & Johnson)

Jan. 4: CMS deadline for second dose of two-dose vaccine


Who can I talk to about my concerns with the vaccine or my religious objections? 

We understand that it’s upsetting to go through this process again, and we empathize with those who are confused and frustrated. The prior process allowed Methodist leadership to determine what was and was not an acceptable exemption – thereby allowing room for exemption for philosophical objection. That has changed, and we’ve been given a very short timeline to comply.

We encourage those with questions connected to the science and safety of the vaccine(s) to contact one of our Infection Prevention physicians. Those who have concerns related to their religious beliefs can contact a Methodist chaplain. And anyone with questions or concerns about the mandate is welcome to contact Human Resources at (402) 354-2200.


Who is making decisions on the exemptions?

A determination on medical exemptions is being made by a panel of physicians, legal professionals and Employee Relations representatives. Religious exemptions are reviewed by local clergy, legal professionals and Employee Relations representatives. 


How quickly will I hear back about my exemption application?

The process and guidelines have been finalized, and we anticipate no more than 48 hours between the time of submission and response. Those who have already submitted should be hearing back in the coming days. We will email the employee at the preferred email listed on their form and notify their direct supervisor.


Can I get my vaccination in Employee Health?

To help with the implementation of the new CMS regulations, Employee Health offices will provide COVID-19 vaccinations in the office from Nov. 22 to Dec. 3. We will be giving only first and second doses at this time – NO BOOSTERS – as our priority is meeting the CMS regulations.

We ask that you call and schedule a time so we can plan on the number of vaccines we will be administering in order to minimize waste; the drug is only usable for a few hours after it has been opened. Please note that you will be required to sit for 15 minutes after you receive your vaccination, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Click here for information on how to schedule.


What happens if I choose to leave? 

While it is our sincere hope that staff will choose to become vaccinated so that we can end this pandemic, those who opt to instead leave the organization should know the following:

  • It’s important to discuss with your supervisor to initiate this process and determine when your last day of employment will be. Supervisors, please use term code 423 in MSS.
  • Staff will be eligible to do a paid time off (PTO) sellback regardless of notice period. 
  • They will also be eligible for rehire if they opt to become vaccinated in the future.
  • This information applies to those retiring as well.


What if I work from home? Does this rule apply to me?

Employees who work from home 100% of the time are not required to be vaccinated. Supervisors with staff who have questions about this ruling are encouraged to call HR to discuss, as each situation is unique.


If my employee is on FMLA, do they have to abide by this deadline?

Yes, the deadline is firm even for those on leave of absence. Supervisors, please be sure to contact any staff on leave to ensure they’re aware of the new mandate and take action as needed.