LeadingAge Comment on Reports of Biden Administration’s Requirement that Nursing Homes Mandate Staff Vaccinations as a Condition of Medicare & Medicaid Participation

PRESS RELEASE | August 18, 2021 | by Lisa Sanders

Contact: Lisa Sanders, lsanders@leadingage.org

August 18, 2021 Washington, DC—Statement from Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers of aging services, including nursing homes, on reports that the Biden administration plans to require that nursing homes mandate staff vaccinations or risk losing funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

“Access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been the most important development of the pandemic for older adults and the people who care for them—and as such, we have encouraged members to make COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment for nursing home staff. We believe this should be the case for not only nursing home staff, but also all healthcare workers in all settings. The entire healthcare community has been risking their lives every day for over a year to protect older Americans from COVID. The vaccine is the best proven protection. We all need everyone to be vaccinated, while honoring exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

But to penalize nursing homes by withholding or withdrawing funding is not the right way to increase vaccination rates. Without Medicaid and Medicare funding, nursing homes cannot provide the quality care that our nation's most vulnerable older adults need. Our mission-driven nursing home members, who operate on narrow margins in the best of times, depend on those funds alone to care for their residents. They cannot bear additional financial losses after more than a year of shouldering historic COVID-related costs.

The administration is right; we are on wartime footing. Defunding the care providers who continue to fight on the frontlines would be a tragic misstep. Americans agree that elected officials have failed older adults and the people who care for them by ignoring and underfunding America’s aging services for decades.

We await more information from the Administration about how and when this new requirement will take effect, and look forward to learning more details on CMS’ reported plans to work with nursing homes, employees and other stakeholders to increase staff vaccination rates in advance of the effective date.”

About LeadingAge:

We represent more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers and other mission-minded organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we use applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building to make America a better place to grow old. Our membership, which now includes the providers of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America, encompasses the continuum of services for people as they age, including those with disabilities. We bring together the most inventive minds in the field to lead and innovate solutions that support older adults wherever they call home. For more information visit leadingage.org.