In September 2021, US President Joe Biden announced a plan to increase the number of Americans who are vaccinated for COVID-19. This six-point, comprehensive national strategy is created to encourage or require vaccination in various workplace settings.
The President also announced that both the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would each be releasing emergency rules. These rules would require both employers with 100 or more employees and healthcare entities that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to implement vaccination and testing protocols.
Given that the impending vaccination and testing regulation may impact employees who are in one of the 28 states that participate in OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs, healthcare entities should closely monitor administrative and regulatory actions being taken.
COVID-19 Action Plan
COVID-19 Action Plan covers both administrative and regulatory actions aimed at increasing vaccination rates across the US and includes mitigation and response efforts through vaccination and masking, keeping schools safely open, and bolstering economic recovery.
In addition to employers with 100 or more employees and most CMS-regulated workplace settings, some form of vaccine mandate will apply to federal employees and employees of federal contractors. The OSHA standard will also require paid time off for employees to get the vaccine.
According to the Action Plan, OSHA will develop a rule known as an emergency temporary standard (ETS). This rule will require all employers with at least 100 employees to ensure that each member of the workforce is fully vaccinated. If not, workers will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. The OSHA ETS will also require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for them to get vaccinated or to recover if they are unwell post-vaccination. However, it is unclear whether the OSHA ETS will require employers to implement these vaccination or testing mandates for non-employee workers such as independent contractors and volunteers.
In addition to this, the President issued two executive orders. One of them requires executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and the other requires federal contractors to comply with all guidance issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. The guidance requires federal employees to be fully vaccinated, except in limited circumstances.Use this thorough guide on exclusion screening to develop effective healthcare compliance, ensure adherence to different regulations, and stay audit-ready.
Expanded Requirements for Healthcare Entities
One point of President Biden’s Action Plan to combat COVID-19 and its variants includes expanding vaccination requirements for most healthcare entities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements. This requirement applies to approximately 50,000 healthcare providers and covers a majority of healthcare workers.
In addition to vaccination requirements for nursing facilities announced on August 18, the CMS is now requiring healthcare entities that receive federal funds to mandate vaccinations for their workers, including the following providers:
- Outpatient Facilities,
- Long-Term Care Facilities & Skilled Nursing Facilities,
- Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers
- Home Health Agencies,
- Clinical Labs, and
Other non-healthcare entities with at least 100 employees will also be required to mandate vaccinations or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. In regard to the enforcement of the recent vaccine mandate, CMS is drafting its guidance.Employing or contracting with an excluded individual or entity can hold serious risks for healthcare organizations and the patients they serve. Learn about the different effects of OIG exclusions from federal healthcare programs to take necessary steps and prevent them.
Preparing for the Impact of New Vaccine Mandate
The decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most healthcare facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds was based on the continued and growing spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings. However, this new requirement will have a significant impact on healthcare entities, especially given that healthcare providers are already experiencing significant issues, and losing more employees could create more challenges.
Making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for healthcare entities would protect vulnerable patients, set a positive example for other employers, and contribute to the national effort to contain the virus. Yet, healthcare providers need to begin planning to implement the new requirements, including determining how they will verify employees’ vaccination status and how they will handle their religious or medical requests.
The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes that can be can be overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating. In addition to taking measures to maintain healthcare compliance, healthcare providers need to adapt to the chaotic COVID-19 environment. Therefore, healthcare providers and organizations should create a culture of change and adaptation, and one way of doing this is to start implementing technological advances. Using exclusion screening solutions allows them to effectively gather and manage data, improve the level of healthcare compliance, and meet all the necessary rules. As a result, they can set higher standards when it comes to adhering to different requirements, easily track changing regulations, prevent costly mistakes, and ensure effective healthcare compliance.