Biden administration considers withholding funds and other measures to spur vaccinations

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fairly difficult
WASHINGTON - The Biden administration is considering using federal regulatory powers and...
the threat of withholding federal funds from institutions to push more Americans to get vaccinated - a huge potential shift in the fight against the virus and a far more muscular approach to getting shots into arms, according to four people familiar with the deliberations.

The effort could apply to institutions as varied as long-term care facilities, cruise ships and universities, potentially impacting millions of Americans, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations.

The conversations are in the early phases and no firm decisions have been made, the people said. One outside lawyer in touch with the Biden administration on the issue is recommending that the president use federal powers sparingly.

There is a particular focus in the discussions on whether restrictions on Medicare dollars or other federal funds could be used to persuade nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to require employees to be vaccinated, according to one of the people familiar with the talks.

If the Biden administration goes forward with the plans, it would amount to a dramatic escalation in the effort to vaccinate the roughly 90 million Americans who are eligible for shots but who have refused or have been unable to get them.

The discussion at the highest level of government also signals a new phase of potential federal intervention as the White House struggles to control the delta variant of the virus, which is spreading more rapidly than even some of the more dire models predicted.

But such drastic moves are likely to trigger further backlash from many Republican-leaning regions where vaccine hesitancy has been highest, agitating conservatives already skeptical of the Biden administration and its use of federal power. The administration has already said that federal workers and contractors must be vaccinated or wear masks, and the Pentagon is considering similar requirements.

Several experts noted that even if…
Annie Linskey and Tyler Pager
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