CMS & CDC to Expand the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Settings

Thursday, September 9th, the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced that emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for nursing home workers will be expanded to include hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, among others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The decision was based on the continued and growing spread of the virus in health care settings, especially in parts of the U.S. with a higher incidence of COVID-19.

The policy expansion is a victory for long-term care providers, staff and residents. Over 4,000 members of the American Health Care Association (AHCA)/National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) as well as endless others from across the long-term care and rehabilitation industries have been advocating for this expansion since the August 18th mandate. The mentioned mandate had the potential to leave the long-term care providers short-staffed during a time when patient care is vitally important.

“There is no higher priority for us than patient health and safety. As the Delta variant strengthens, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing everything we can to keep patients, and those who care for them, safe,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”

CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October. CMS expects certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interest of patients and staff by complying with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

“We know that those working in health care want to do what is best for their patients in order to keep them safe,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “As the Delta variant continues to spread, we know the best defense against it lies with the COVID-19 vaccine. Data shows that the higher the level of vaccination rates among providers and staff, the lower the infection rate is among patients who are dependent upon them for care. Now is the time to act. I’m urging everyone, but especially those fighting this virus on the front lines, to get vaccinated and protect themselves, their families, and their patients from COVID-19.”

Thank you for all you do each day for your team and residents.

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