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Biden administration announces vaccination requirement for long-term care workers

On August 18, the Biden Administration announced that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be developing an emergency regulation that requires nursing homes that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid program to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for their workforce. This new regulation would apply to about 15,000 nursing home facilities and their approximately 1.6 million employees.

The Biden Administration cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as part of the rational for this new regulation, which showed a strong relationship between the increase of COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents and the rate of vaccination among nursing home workers. Nationally, approximately 62 percent of nursing home staff are currently vaccinated according to CMS data, with vaccination rates at the state level varying from 88 percent to as low as 44 percent. The Biden Administration has mandated vaccination among some federal employees, and this is the first time the Administration has threatened to withhold federal funding from businesses that do not mandate all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Counties own and operate 449 nursing homes and directly support 758 nursing homes across the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic has had sustained and devastating impact on long-term care environments, and this provider sector is currently experiencing significant challenges with workforce recruitment and retention. Given these challenges, there are concerns from the long-term care community that the federal vaccine mandate will exacerbate the workforce shortages, as employees migrate to other healthcare sectors without such mandate.

CMS intends to issue the rule as early as September, which will coincide with public comment period. NACo will continue to monitor the impact of this rule on county owned nursing home and long-term care facilities and relay pertinent information.

For more details on COVID-19 related regulations for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, see the NACo brief Nursing Homes and COVID-19.

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