Biden Announces that Nursing Homes Must Increase Efforts To Vaccinate Staff or Risk Losing Out on Federal Funds

Alerts / August 20, 2021

As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, President Joe Biden announced a new mandate on Aug. 18 requiring the vaccination of nursing home staff in order for nursing homes to continue to receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promulgate new regulations making employee vaccination a condition to nursing home participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, marking an escalation in Biden’s efforts to vaccinate Americans and the first instance of threatening to withhold federal funds as a tool to increase vaccination rates.

Despite the fact that nursing home staff were among the earliest category of essential workers made eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, data shows that the vaccination rate among this group continues to lag behind industry targets.

Notably, the same day Biden announced the nursing home vaccine mandate, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Maryland hospitals and nursing homes will be required to ensure their staffs are fully vaccinated or are tested for COVID-19 regularly, or face fines and penalties. Similarly, the Pennsylvania State Department of Health will require that all employees of state-owned healthcare facilities show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing.

Biden’s announcement comes on the heels of other state and private efforts to increase vaccination rates across the country. Recently imposed vaccine requirements include those from federal, state and local governments, as well as large private corporations that require employees to be vaccinated or participate in regular testing, a requirement that military members be vaccinated beginning next month, federal support to schools that implement mask mandates in defiance of state mask bans, increased mask mandates across the country, and required proof of vaccination status for patrons of local businesses in some areas.

The new HHS regulations could go into effect as early as September 2021, and the White House has reported that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will work with nursing homes to increase staff vaccination rates before any proposed regulations take effect. Healthcare providers across all settings should anticipate the possibility of a broader vaccine mandate for staff in the coming months and consider how they will prepare themselves to implement any such requirements in order to reduce risk to state and federal funding.

Baker & Hostetler LLP publications are intended to inform our clients and other friends of the firm about current legal developments of general interest. They should not be construed as legal advice, and readers should not act upon the information contained in these publications without professional counsel. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you written information about our qualifications and experience.

Related Industries