LeadingAge Warns Government That Vaccination Mandates Limited to Nursing Homes Would Worsen Staff Shortages and Not Protect Millions of Older Adults from COVID-19

PRESS RELEASE | August 23, 2021 | by Lisa Sanders

Urges Mandate Across All Health Care Settings, and for Visitors—Along with Assistance to Address Staffing Shortages

Lisa Sanders, lsanders@leadingage.org 202-508-9407

August 23, 2021 Washington, DC—The nation’s largest association of nonprofit aging services providers warned that requiring nursing home staff COVID-19 vaccinations without including other health care workers and visitors could backfire—leaving millions of older adults in danger, and accelerating staff shortages that are being fueled by the surging Delta variant.

“LeadingAge has encouraged its members to make a COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. “But federal mandates that single out one health care setting will leave millions of older Americans unprotected and risk doing more harm than good.”

“Mandating vaccines in nursing homes alone may lead vaccine-reluctant staff to jump to other health care settings where mandates are not imposed—increasing the risk in those care settings and exacerbating already-dire staff shortages in nursing homes,” she added. “A surge in the deadly Delta variant is no time to make it more likely that nursing homes will have to turn away people in need of care or even to face closing their doors.”

Sloan thanked the Administration for their commitment to fighting COVID and detailed her concerns in a letter sent today to the White House Director of Domestic Policy, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The letter calls on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to:

  • broaden its mandate requiring vaccines as a condition of employment to all health care providers that participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid,
  • extend the mandate to visitors and agency staff across all care settings,
  • provide desperately needed assistance to address workforce shortages in the long-term care sector,
  • allocate remaining Provider Relief Funds to long-term care providers as quickly as possible, and
  • increase Administration support to promote vaccine acceptance in aging services settings.

 

Excerpts from LeadingAge’s Letter

  • “The Administration’s announcement this week that employers in only one health care setting—nursing homes—will face loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding if they do not ensure that all staff are vaccinated is far too limited….A recent report from the Census [shows] that there are more than 7 million workers in hospitals, close to 2 million in physician offices and a similar number in outpatient care settings, and 1.7 million in nursing homes. Nursing home workers are only a small part of a larger system.”
  • “Mandates should extend to visitors and agency staff across all care settings….There are far too many examples of agency staff and surveyors bringing COVID into nursing homes; this can’t continue.”
  • “Workforce shortages in nursing homes have been one of the most painful outcomes of the pandemic….Recently, as the Delta variant drives case rates higher, we are hearing from members in some states that it is not even possible to hire temporary agency staff. Many are turning away individuals in need of their care because they simply don’t have the staff to provide quality care.”
  • “Mandates that don’t cover the whole health care workforce, are likely to further workforce shortages, driving some nursing home staff to employers not requiring vaccination—which is untenable. Nursing homes that are unable to hire staff or even bring in agency staff face the dire prospect of having to transfer residents and close their doors.”
  • “This unintended consequence may be even more likely for many nursing homes, particularly small, single site homes, and those in rural areas that are still struggling financially from the mounting costs of the pandemic.”
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.