Biden administration considers withholding federal funds from health care institutions to coerce more people into risky vaccinations
The Biden administration is mulling the use of federal powers – including withholding federal funding
– to coerce more people into vaccinations. It considered the move amid the spread of the B16172 delta variant in the U.S. alongside vaccine hesitancy. A number of institutions depending on federal money would face serious consequences if the mandate pushes through, people familiar with the matter said.
Four insiders said the Biden administration's possible move could impact institutions, including long-term care facilities, cruise ships, and universities. They warned that millions of Americans would be affected as the administration uses "a far more muscular approach to vaccination." Despite this, the four people said the conversations are still in the early phases and no firm decisions have been made. The four spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations.
According to one of the four people familiar with the talks, the administration had a particular focus on restricting Medicare dollars. They added that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities could then be persuaded to require their employees to be vaccinated.
Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University
said he has tackled the idea of using federal funds as incentives for vaccination with Biden administration officials. "I think wisely using the federal spending power is absolutely right," the director of the university's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law said. "The federal government can't directly mandate a vaccine, [but] it can use its spending power to say to a state, 'You mandate vaccinations. And if you don't, we'll withhold certain federal dollars,'" he added.
Gostin suggested that the White House use its power judiciously by "starting with high-risk setting with an absolute ethical … and legal obligation to keep … workers and clients safe" through the vaccine mandates.
He also noted that there are limits to the federal government's power to use funding to influence states on matters of policy. To this, Gostin suggested that President Joe Biden use money directly related to health. He also suggested to ensure that total funds to be used for this purpose "are not so extensive an amount that it appeared coercive."
When the carrot no longer works, it's time to use the stick
The revelation from the four insiders followed the federal government progressively mandating COVID-19 vaccinations. On July 29, Biden announced that COVID-19 vaccination would be mandatory for federal workers
. Unvaccinated employees would be subjected to stricter rules such as mask mandates, weekly COVID-19 testing, distancing requirements and more. (Related: Biden administration mulls COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers amidst surge of "cases" following widespread vaccinations
The Associated Press
also reported that Biden delivered sharp remarks aimed at Americans refusing to get inoculated. "If in fact you are unvaccinated, you present a problem to yourself, to your family and those with whom you work," he said. The president also denounced unvaccinated citizens, claiming that "they get sick and fill up … hospitals" and that they take hospital beds away from others who need them more.
Three days before Biden announced the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on federal workers, the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) required its medical staff
to get inoculated. A July 26 statement on the VA website said the mandate applied to all Title 38 health care personnel at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities. These included physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses and chiropractors directly working with veterans.
Each employee will be given eight weeks to be fully vaccinated, the statement said. It mentioned that all VA employees can get the COVID-19 vaccine at any VHA facility "at no personal expense." Furthermore, employees who show proof of vaccination were entitled to four hours of paid administrative leave.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in the statement: "We're mandating vaccines … because it's the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the delta variant spreads across the country." The statement concluded that "the safety and wellbeing of … veterans and [VA] personnel is paramount." (Related: Department of Veterans Affairs mandates coronavirus vaccines for all health care workers
has more articles about the federal government's tactics to mandate COVID-19 inoculation.