President Joe Biden revealed a new six-track national COVID-19 strategy on Thursday, including stricter vaccination requirements for U.S. workers.
The health organizations expressly mentioned in the plan also included the home health departments. The Biden administration’s strategy not only calls for, or requests or urges, American workers to be vaccinated, but also increased testing and masking while providing more support for COVID-infected hospitals.
“The president’s plan will reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans by using government powers and other measures to significantly increase the number of Americans who are vaccinated – these requirements will dominate the workplace,” the plan said White house. “In addition, the plan includes paid vaccination breaks for most workers in the country.”
COVID-19 vaccines have been available to everyone aged 16 and over since April 19, and people aged 12 and over have been able to be vaccinated since May. Even so, according to CDC data, almost 54% of the US population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Most home health and home care providers have strongly encouraged their frontline workers to get vaccinated. In addition, many are currently working in states like New York or Massachusetts that have mandatory vaccination guidelines in place.
However, relatively few independent home care providers have gone so far as to issue mandates themselves. A post-acute care company based in Dallas in late August AccentCare told Home Health Care News that she moves forward with mandatory vaccinations for executives and managers.
AccentCare CEO Steve Rodgers explained the importance of home health professionals adopting similar policies to their upstream referral partners in order to protect high-risk patients.
“We as an industry don’t want to be the last resort for the unvaccinated,” Rodgers said. “I think we as an industry have the same obligations as our hospital partners and others out there to essentially move closer together. We have to take a stand on this together. “
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) estimates that the vaccination range for home care workers is between 40% and 90%, depending on the operation and discipline of the worker.
Specifically, the Biden government’s new plan states that the Department of Labor’s Health and Safety Authority (OSHA) develop a rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workforce is fully vaccinated. Alternatively, companies can require unvaccinated workers to submit a negative test result at least weekly before coming to work.
The plan also mobilizes the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for “most healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, outpatient surgical facilities Institutions and home nursing, “agencies require.”
Citing the increasing prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in the healthcare sector, a CMS announcement outlined that vaccinations are required as a prerequisite for participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
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“There is no question that employees in all healthcare facilities who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and the health of the population,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the US Department of Health (HHS). “Ensuring safety and access for all patients, regardless of their point of entry into the healthcare system, is essential.”
CMS is developing a preliminary final ruling that will be released in October with further details. In the meantime, the agency expects certified Medicare and Medicaid providers to “act in the best interests of patients and staff by meeting the new COVID-19 vaccination requirements as soon as possible.”
“We know that those who work in healthcare want to do what is best for their patients to keep them safe,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.
The stricter vaccine requirements apply to approximately 50,000 providers and over 17 million healthcare workers in Medicare and Medicaid certified organizations.
“NAHC has been promoting vaccination throughout the pandemic,” its President Bill Dombi said in a statement shared with HHCN. “We look forward to seeing the details of the President’s Executive Order.”