COVID-19: President Biden’s Vaccination Mandate for Health Care Settings
On Aug. 18, 2021, President Biden, joined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) must make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all employees or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. This mandate would apply to approximately 15,000 nursing homes and around 1.6 million employees.
This mandate will have several ramifications, but the most pressing is the challenge these nursing facilities will face in finding and keeping nurses to appropriately staff their facilities. These facilities already face a high employee turnover rate, so the decision to implement the vaccination mandate or lose Medicare and Medicaid funding is a difficult one.
Expansion of the mandate
On Sept. 9, 2021, President Biden, in conjunction with CMS, expanded the vaccine mandate for health care providers. COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandated for all health care facility employees as a condition of participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. This includes YOU, if you are a:
- Dialysis facility
- Skilled nursing facility
- Durable medical equipment supplier
- Home health agency
- Clinical lab
- Ambulatory surgical setting
It also applies to some “others.” CMS expects to have the final emergency rule in place for SNFs during September and for other providers in October.
Compliance and enforcement
CMS encourages all health care providers participating in Medicare and Medicaid to make a diligent effort to come into compliance with the mandate while they work to put the new emergency regulation in place. The agency anticipates that enforcement of the regulation will mimic current enforcement mechanisms, with a finding of non-compliance resulting in a deficiency with an opportunity to correct, with fines and subsequent termination from the programs if the health care provider cannot achieve compliance over time.
Be aware that vendors conducting business with these facilities will also likely be required to have all employees vaccinated for COVID-19 before entering these facilities.
Keep in mind that President Biden plans to mandate vaccinations in all businesses with more than 100 employees. Even if you do not qualify as one of the above health care facilities, if you employ more than 100 people, it is likely that vaccinations will be mandated for you, too.
Be on the lookout for more changes regarding COVID-19 vaccination mandates. For more information or assistance with compliance, contact Julie B. Mitchell at 601-707-4039.