Industry has questions and concerns about CMS vaccine mandate

Industry stakeholders have welcomed the intention of the COVID-19 vaccine regulations released Thursday morning by the Medicare and Medicaid Services Centers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but many still have lingering concerns, especially whether these requirements will lead to that more healthcare workers will leave the hospital. an already tense job market.

Meanwhile, Republican state officials immediately said they plan to sue the federal government over the OSHA rule – a move that has been expected since the Biden administration announced it would require the two agencies to make public policy on the COVID vaccine. 19 in September. The litigation could begin as early as Friday.

“Today’s vaccine regulations set clear expectations and streamline and simplify regulatory requirements for healthcare providers. It is important to note that they are clarifying that hospitals will only have to comply with the CMS rule, eliminating unnecessary complications in meeting vaccine requirements, ”Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in a press release. “In addition, we welcome that the CMS regulation allows time for reconciliation, provides guidance on medical and religious exceptions, clarifies interactions with state and local laws, and ensures a level playing field for all healthcare providers.”

Organizations will have to comply with the rules by January 4. LeadingAge CEO and President Katie Smith Sloane said the organization values ​​the CMS that gives institutions time to comply and offers medical and religious benefits.

But like other stakeholders, LeadingAge remains wary of how this policy will exacerbate staff problems.

“This policy could further complicate staffing issues (including the prospect of additional layoffs) for our members, who are already grappling with long-standing staffing problems exacerbated by the pandemic. We cannot overemphasize the need for staffing support and will continue to communicate the needs of our “Administration and CMS” members, ”Smith Sloan said in a statement.

The American Health Association / National Center for Life Assistance also remains concerned that healthcare workers are leaving nursing homes as a result of the CMS vaccine, and are concerned that CMS has not discussed providing resources to providers to ensure compliance. …

“While we support the overall goal of this CMS policy, we are concerned that its implementation will exacerbate an already dire staffing crisis in long-term care. A tough deadline with no resources for suppliers or a slippery slope for unvaccinated workers is likely to push too much “out the door and end up threatening residents’ access to long-term care,” AHCA / NCAL CEO and President Mark Parkinson said in a statement.

However, some organizations believe that this rule will help reduce staff shortages. The Society for Health Epidemiology of America has said it fully supports vaccine requirements for large organizations, especially healthcare providers.

“Vaccines are the most effective and scientifically proven way to protect patients, staff and visitors from the COVID-19 virus, and widespread vaccination in other major workplaces will also protect the wider community,” Dr. Mary Hayden, Society President Says in a report by the Board of Trustees of America on Health Epidemiology. “Ensuring that large organizations are required to have vaccinated staff helps level the playing field so that institutions can recruit and retain health care workers. This addresses the acute shortage of staff across the entire health continuum. ”

Major hospitals in America welcomed the rule, but asked for the manual to be released quickly.

“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Temporary Final Rule aligns with our commitment to vaccination as the best way to protect patients and keep carers safe. We value the step-by-step approach to compliance and ask the agency to issue clarifying instructions as soon as possible. as much as possible to help suppliers meet the new vaccine requirements, ”said Bruce Siegel, President and CEO of AEH.

Guidance is also important for insurance companies. The Alliance for Public Health Plans wants the federal government to clarify reimbursement responsibilities for OSHA-covered employees who choose to take weekly COVID-19 tests in lieu of vaccines. This option is not available to healthcare professionals who qualify for the CMS rule.

“To protect each consumer’s premium dollar, it’s important that the administration affirms that insurance plans are only responsible for health-related testing,” the ACHP said in an October letter released Thursday.

Concerns aside, health stakeholders continue to encourage everyone to be vaccinated. The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nursing Association issued a joint statement calling for widespread vaccination after the death toll from COVID-19 reached 750,000 Americans. The statement does not mention CMS or OSHA vaccine requirements.

“This devastating milestone should serve as a reminder to everyone that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and continues to pose a serious threat to our society, especially the unvaccinated,” the statement said. “The only way to truly end this pandemic is to ensure widespread vaccination and continue to take the preventive public health measures that we know are helping to contain the spread of this virus.”

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