Editor’s Note: The deadline to comment on the rule will be July 12.
A new federal requirement for skilled nursing facilities to report weekly COVID-19 vaccination data may have implications for assisted living providers as efforts to increase vaccination uptake ramp up.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Tuesday announced a new interim rule that requires skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to report weekly COVID-19 vaccination status data for both residents and staff members. CMS said it plans to post facility-specific vaccination status information on its public COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website.
The interim rule, according to the federal agency, will become effective 10 days after posting in the Federal Register, which is expected to take place Thursday.
Although the announcement was specific to skilled nursing and intermediate care facilities, CMS said it is seeking comment on “opportunities to expand these policies to encourage vaccine uptake and access in other congregate care settings,” including assisted living communities, group homes and psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
David Schless, president of the American Seniors Housing Association, said that senior living operators “wholeheartedly” embraced the federal Pharmacy Partnership in Long-Term Care program that resulted in resident and staff vaccination rates that exceeded those of the general public. And the industry worked diligently to educate in the face of vaccine hesitancy, he added. But requiring providers to report vaccination rates is misplaced, Schless said.
“Because senior living operators are not directly involved in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, they are not in a position to accurately report vaccination uptake information to the federal government,” Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living. “It is our belief that the federal government should, instead, be collecting vaccination data directly from those entities who are administering the vaccine and are the point of contact with the individual.”
A spokesperson for the National Center for Assisted Living told McKnight’s Senior Living that the organization supports transparency in vaccination rates and plans to offer comments to CMS as part of the rule-making process. CMS said it will accept comments for 60 days after publication of the interim rule.
“Since the pandemic began, we have encouraged assisted living communities to report COVID-related data to state health departments, and that all long-term care facilities be transparent with residents, families and other stakeholders, including information about their vaccination rates,” the spokesperson said.
NCAL’s sister organization, the American Health Care Association, said in a statement that it supports expanding the rule to all Medicare providers, including hospitals, home health and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. The list did not include senior living communities, which generally are not Medicare providers.
John Schulte, vice president of quality improvement at Argentum, said that organization supports vaccine access for all, but stopped short of saying whether Argentum supports expanding the rule.
“We strongly support continued access and education around the COvID-19 vaccine in senior living settings for both staff and residents,” Schulte told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We are extremely pleased with the continued high rates of resident vaccinations and with the increasing uptake among staff; these measures are allowing our communities to get back to some sense of normalcy with regard to visitation, dining and group activities.”
CMS stated that the reporting requirement will assist in monitoring vaccine uptake as well as identify facilities that may need additional resources to respond to the pandemic.
The interim rule requires facilities to report weekly vaccination data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network. Skilled nursing facilities and developmental disability facilities already report COVID-19 testing, case and mortality data to the portal.