CMS to require staff at hospitals and other facilities to get COVID-19 vaccine or risk funding loss

The Biden administration is moving to require all Medicare and Medicaid facilities to vaccinate their workforce, expanding a mandate already applied to nursing home staff.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Thursday its intention to release an interim final rule in October to require hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical centers and other facilities to vaccinate their staff as a condition for participating in Medicare and Medicaid.

“Data show that the higher the level of vaccination rates among providers and staff, the lower the infection rate is among patients who are dependent upon them for care,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure in a statement. “Now is the time to act.”

Healthcare workers currently employed in affected facilities who are not vaccinated need to begin the process immediately, CMS said.

“Facilities are urged to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to meet new federal requirements,” the agency said.

More than 100 hospitals and health systems have already implemented vaccination mandates for staff, moves that have triggered lawsuits and protests from unvaccinated staff.

CMS announced last month that it is developing a similar interim final rule applied to nursing homes. But lower vaccination rates in several other facilities prompted the agency to expand the mandate.

“Nursing homes with an overall staff vaccination rate of 75% or lower experience higher rates of preventable COVID infection,” a CMS release said. “In CMS’ review of available data, the agency is seeing lower staff vaccination rates among hospital and End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) facilities.”