President calls for requirement for staff at all nursing homes
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he is directing all nursing homes nationwide to vaccinate their staff or risk losing federal funding.
President Biden said he is asking the Department of Health and Human Services to develop new regulations that would require all staff to be vaccinated at nursing homes as a condition for receiving money from Medicare and Medicaid.
The new measure comes as the latest escalation in the Biden administration’s efforts to increase the country’s inoculation rate. It’s also the first time the president has utilized federal leverage to enforce a vaccine mandate.
“Now, if you visit, live or work at a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk of contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” the president said during a speech at the White House. “While I’m mindful that my authority at the federal government is limited, I’m going to continue to look for ways to keep people safe and increase vaccination rates.”
In the U.S., there are more than 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-participating nursing homes that employ about 1.3 million workers, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. About 62% of nursing home staff nationwide were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 8, and about 82.8% of nursing home residents nationwide are fully vaccinated, according to data from CMS.
In accordance with the Biden administration’s announcement, the CMS said Wednesday it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop an emergency requirement for staff vaccinations at nursing homes.
The new measures from the White House and the CMS could be rolled out as early as next month, according to the statement.
With the rapid spread of the delta variant, CMS officials said a vaccine requirement is a “key component” in protecting vulnerable residents.
“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,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Wednesday’s announcement from the White House prompted reaction from a nursing home industry group who said the mandate does not go “far enough” and should apply to all healthcare settings.
With a vaccine mandate only in place in nursing care facilities, the industry could face a “disastrous workforce challenge,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted, said in a statement Wednesday.
“Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine-hesitant workers to flee to other healthcare providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents,” Mr. Parkinson said. “It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse. The net effect of this action will be the opposite of its intent and will affect the ability to provide quality care to our residents. We look forward to working with the administration in the coming days to develop solutions to overcome this challenge.”