CMS will not immediately exclude nursing homes from Medicaid and Medicare if they fail to meet last week’s announced employee vaccination requirement, administrators said in a phone call with industry representatives on Wednesday.
Instead, the CMS will take a phased approach to mandate fulfillment. Nursing homes will first be notified that they are not complying with the regulation, then civil monetary fines are charged, then they are denied payment and ultimately removed from the program if they do not comply.
“Termination is usually not the first action. We typically use a progressive enforcement and remedy scheme, ”said Jean Moody-Williams, associate director of the CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality.
The new requirement is expected to enter into force no earlier than September. The CMS cannot share the details because the agency is still developing the rules., said Evan Schulman, director of the CMS nursing home division. In the meantime, the CMS will be accepting questions.
As of 8 August, 62% of nursing home staff have been vaccinated. At the state level, the rate ranges from 44% to 88%, according to CMS. The vaccination will affect more than 15,000 nursing homes, which employs about 1.3 million people and serves about 1.6 million nursing home residents, according to the White House.
Moody-Williams said the national standard could improve staffing problems in nursing homes with existing mandates by preventing vaccine skeptical employees from leaving for jobs without mandates.
“We believe this requirement will really level the playing field,” said Moody-Williams.
President Joe Biden’s administration also announced last week that anyone who received the COVID-19 vaccine at least eight months prior will be eligible for revaccinations pending federal approval starting week 20 September.
Health care workers, nursing home residents and the elderly will be among the first to qualify because these groups have early access to vaccines. Health officials plan to start vaccinating patients in long-term care facilities next month.
Since the introduction of the delta variant in the United States, COVID-19 Cases Among Residents of Nursing Homes increased from 319 June 27 to 2696 August 8, with many outbreaks occurring in facilities in states with low staff vaccination rates, according to CMS.
The White House said data from CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a strong correlation between the rise in COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents and vaccination rates among nursing home workers.
There will be a large number of vaccines and options for accessing them. said Dr. Nimali Stone, a CDC epidemiologist. Nursing homes will be able to obtain vaccines either from long-term care pharmacies or retail pharmacies.
To track re-vaccinations administered in nursing homes, the CDC added two new questions to its data collection form. One asks for the total number of residents or medical personnel eligible for the booster, and the other asks for the number of those who are eligible for an additional dose or booster.