man rolling up sleeve, nurse preparing shot

President Biden on Thursday applied excessively more pressure on employees at home health agencies to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Home health workers at agencies receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding are among the 17 million healthcare workers who must now be vaccinated, according to a new federal mandate.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for workers at nursing homes would be expanded to include hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home health facilities and a number of other healthcare providers as the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads across the U.S.

“There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which favored a vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers, applauded the move.

“This requirement will improve health and safety for health workers, volunteers, patients, and their families. And, because it applies so broadly, it will also help address staffing challenges within the healthcare sector,” NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach said in a statement.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice has not endorsed mandatory vaccinations, but in a statement to McKnight’s Home Care Daily NAHC President William Dombi said NAHC “has encouraged vaccinations throughout the pandemic. We look forward to seeing the details of the President’s Executive Order.”

CMS is developing an interim final rule with a comment period that will be issued in October. At this point CMS has not specified a deadline for the vaccinations. CMS said it expects Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interests of patients and staff by complying with the mandate.

Just last month, CMS disclosed that nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding must have vaccinated workforces or risk losing their funding.

Beyond the CMS rule, another major rule announced Thursday requires that employers with 100 or more employees provide proof that their workforce is vaccinated or produce negative COVID tests at least once a week. 

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.