Biden Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Nursing Home Staff

syringe and vialsOn September 15, President Biden announced a new policy requiring nursing home staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Nursing homes must require that staff are vaccinated in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The policy is an effort to increase vaccination levels among nursing homes, protecting both staff and residents. Though the majority of nursing home residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19, far fewer staff members have been vaccinated.

This policy marks a key point in the work the Biden administration is doing to motivate people to get vaccinated; it’s the first time the administration has moved to withhold federal funds.

“If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” said Biden.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as of September 5, 84.1% of residents per nursing home are vaccinated against COVID-19, nationally. In comparison, only 63.7% of staff per nursing home are vaccinated.

Nursing homes have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic. CMS reports that, to date, there have been 686,104 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residents, and 630,071 confirmed cases among nursing home staff. The pandemic has resulted in 135,427 nursing home resident deaths and 2,037 nursing home staff deaths so far.

The highly contagious Delta variant has resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases within nursing homes. CMS reports that on June 27, nursing home resident COVID-19 cases were at a low of 319. By August 8, COVID-19 cases in nursing home residents had increased to 2,696 cases. Many of those cases occurred in nursing homes in areas of the country with low staff vaccination rates.

Senior care administrators’ reactions to Biden’s policy have been mixed. Some support the effort to protect the health of staff and residents, while others are concerned that a vaccine mandate could cause staff to resign, leaving often already understaffed facilities even more shorthanded.

The policy announced on September 15 is one of several policies that focus on staff vaccination rates in senior care settings. In May of 2021, CMS issued a rule requiring long-term care facilities and residential facilities that serve clients with intellectual disabilities to offer vaccine education and the COVID-19 vaccine to their residents, clients, and staff. The policy also required long-term care facilities to report resident and staff COVID-19 vaccination status to CMW on a weekly basis.

With more than 15,000 nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid funding nationwide, this latest policy could have a widespread effect. Nursing home administrators have limited time to prepare a response to this plan, as CMS plans to issue the new rules soon. CMS also expects that nursing home administrators will provide employees with multiple types of support to get vaccinated. This support may include vaccination clinics and employee education.

Topics: Administration , Executive Leadership , Facility management , Featured Articles , Medicare/Medicaid , Policy , Resident Care , Risk Management