Health-care worker getting vaccinated. Temple Health photo
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that all nursing homes who get Medicare and Medicaid payments must require their staff to get vaccinated for Covid-19 or lose that essential funding. It’s a move that Kentucky nursing homes have resisted, for fear it will cause employees to quit.
That remains a concern due to staff shortages, said Betsy Johnson, president of the lobby for long-term-care facilities. She said the group supports vaccine mandates by employers.
“The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities / Kentucky Center for Assisted Living has publicly stated that we have an expectation that all our health-care workers receive the Covid-19 vaccine,” she said in an e-mail. “Due to workforce shortages in long-term care, we are concerned about government mandates such as one that the Biden administration announced today.”
President Joe Biden said in a Wednesday news conference that nursing home staff “significantly trail the rest of the nation” when it comes to vaccination rates.
In Kentucky nursing homes, “just over 80% of residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 49% of staff — the sixth lowest rate nationwide, just below Mississippi and above Tennessee,” Alex Acquisto of the Lexington Herald-Leader reported in an Aug. 9 story that dug into the concern about staff losses if vaccination were mandated.
CNN reports that the new rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could go into effect as early as next month.
Biden said, “I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of health-care costs, to ensure we reduce those risks for our most vulnerable seniors. The steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm’s way. . . . If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk of contracting Covid from unvaccinated employees.”
Nationally, some nursing-home interests argued “that workers across the health care system should face the same mandates,” reports Michelle Stein of Inside Health Policy. “The move was immediately praised by the Center for American Progress, which had previously urged CMS to put such requirements in place across the health-care industry. . . . CMS at press time had not responded to questions on whether the agency planned to require other sectors to have their staff vaccinated against Covid-19 as a requirement to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.”