New Hampshire health officials say vaccine restrictions would cost billions

New Hampshire could lose billions of dollars and federal funding if it enacted a bill to restrict COVID-19 vaccine requirements, according to health care officials.

A proposal being considered by the state Legislature would create a new “moral” or “conscience” exemption to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and require all public and private employers who receive public funding to approve the exemptions without question.

But several health care officials testified during a hearing on the bill on Wednesday that the proposal would put the state in conflict with federal rules that require vaccinations.

Paula Minnehan, with the New Hampshire Hospital Association, said the proposal would impact public health, interfere with business owners’ rights and potentially cost hospitals and nursing homes more than $2.3 billion a year in federal Medicaid and Medicare funding.

“This bill is in direct conflict with Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services requirements,” she told the panel. “That would jeopardize hospitals throughout New Hampshire.”

David Juvet, with the Business and Industry Association, said the proposal would prevent employers from enacting policies that are aimed at keeping workplaces safe.

“This is not business friendly legislation,” Juvet told the committee. “This bill is clearly taking away the ability for employers to do what they think is in the best interests of their employees and customers.”

Under current rules, New Hampshire employers must only consider requests for religious and medical exemptions, but are not required to provide them.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, argued that employers – whether they are public or private – should be required to offer “flexible medical, religious, and conscientious objector” exemptions from any federal or state vaccine mandate.

During Wednesday’s hearing, House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, also testified before the committee on a proposal he filed that would prohibit the state from enforcing federal mandates on vaccines.

“This isn’t about the vaccine,” he told the committee, adding that he has been vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19. “This is about what I believe is an illegal federal mandate, period. This type of a mandate, where they’re threatening to have people fired if they don’t comply with something they don’t believe in, is just wrong.”

Packard told committee members that it wasn’t his intention to see Medicaid reimbursement halted and said he was willing to work with lawmakers to prevent that from happening.

New Hampshire is also one of 11 states that sued to block rules by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all private businesses with 100 or more employees. It also sued to block a similar vaccine mandate for health-care workers at facilities that receive federal funding.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large businesses after justices issued a ruling that the mandate was government overreach.

But the high court kept the federal vaccine requirement for health-care facilities on the books.

This article was originally posted on New Hampshire health officials say vaccine restrictions would cost billions