Yesterday, Wednesday, August 18th, President Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will begin the process of developing new emergency regulations that will require nursing homes participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to have all staff vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to continue receiving federal funding for the programs.
These new regulations would apply to more than 15,000 Medicare- or Medicaid-certified nursing facilities, which employ approximately 1.3 million employees and serve approximately 1.6 nursing home residents. With approximately 60% of all nursing home care being paid for by Medicaid and 20% more by Medicare, the regulations carry powerful implications for providers.
“Keeping nursing home residents and staff safe is our priority. The data are clear that higher levels of staff vaccination are linked to fewer outbreaks among residents, many of whom are at an increased risk of infection, hospitalization, or death,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “We will continue to work closely with our partners at the CDC, long-term care associations, unions, and other stakeholders to advance policies that keep residents and staff safe. As we advance these new requirements, we’ll work with nursing homes to address staff and resident concerns with compassion and by following the science.”
It was not immediately clear how regulators expect to audit or enforce the newly announced mandate. CMS said in a statement that guidance would be coming in September, when the new rules are expected to go into full effect.
Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), made the following statement yesterday after the Biden administration’s announcement: “We appreciate the administration’s efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in long term care. Unfortunately, this action does not go far enough. The government should not single out one provider group for mandatory vaccinations. Vaccination mandates for health care personnel should be applied to all health care settings. Without this, nursing homes face a disastrous workforce challenge……We look forward to working with the administration in the coming days to develop solutions to overcome this challenge.”
Click here to access yesterday’s CMS Press Release.
Click here to access the Fact Sheet posted by the White House.