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Nursing Homes Want Covid Testing Option for Unvaccinated Workers

Aug. 20, 2021, 8:51 PM

The nursing home industry wants the Biden administration to fund Covid-19 testing for its unvaccinated workers to help avert sudden staffing shortages resulting from the new requirement that all facility employees get the jab.

American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson also called for the release of $3 billion in federal provider relief funds to help pay for additional staff once the new mandate takes effect next month, according to a letter he sent Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Medicare agency head Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Both requests were among six recommendations the industry wants implemented after President Joe Biden moved to require that nursing homes vaccinate their entire staff against the coronavirus to participate in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Medicaid pays for 63% of nursing home residents while Medicare pays for 12%, according to the AHCA, which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes.

The new requirement will apply to more than 15,000 facilities and as many as 1.3 million industry workers, according to estimates by the Biden administration.

Of the 16 states and the District of Columbia that have vaccine mandates for health-care workers, eight include Covid tests for unvaccinated staff as a provision of the mandate, Parkinson said. A similar program for nursing homes would give “education efforts time to work and prevent a sudden departure of large numbers of staff,” he added.

Parkinson also called for the administration to: expand the vaccine mandate to include all health-care workers; commit $25 million for education and outreach to vaccine-hesitant workers; and modify current guidance to allow facilities “to ask visitors about their vaccination and test results and require vaccination or negative tests prior to visits.”

Nationally, about 60% of nursing home workers were vaccinated as of Aug. 12, federal data shows. State-level vaccination rates for nursing home staff range from a high of 88% in Hawaii to a low of 44% in Louisiana.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, accounting for nearly 187,000 deaths and more than 1.4 million infections as of July 30, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Infected staffers are believed to be the cause of many of the illnesses and deaths. Nearly 2,000 nursing home workers have died of Covid.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Pugh in Washington at tpugh@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

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