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Staffing Worries Loom As White House Mandates 100% COVID Vaccinations For Hospice

Staffing Worries Loom as White House Mandates 100% COVID Vaccinations for Hospice

In early September, the White House published its “Path Out of the Pandemic Plan.” This plan will require 100% of hospice workers, along with other healthcare workers, to vaccinate against COVID-19.

How Much is a Hospice Vaccination Mandate Needed?

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice estimates that between 40% and 90% of home health and hospice workers have vaccinated. The rate varies widely between companies and job types.

Which Hospice Agencies are Affected by this Plan?

The White House’s plan applies to any healthcare provider that takes Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare is the largest payor for hospice services by far. That’s why almost 100% of agencies licensed as hospice providers take Medicare.

Which Hospice Workers Must Vaccinate?

The “Path Out of the Pandemic Plan” covers absolutely everyone connected with hospice work. This includes clinicians such as nurses, therapists, and aides. Volunteers must vaccinate. The hospice chaplain must vaccinate to work with the hospice agency. It includes office staff. Even subcontractors being paid by the hospice agency to deliver some aspect of care must vaccinate under this plan.

Why Mandate COVID Vaccination for Hospice Workers?

Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, states, “There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health.” “Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”

Staffing Woes Attributed to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

While the “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan stands apart for its national reach, it is not the first vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. One hospital worker reported to us that they lost roughly 30% of their staff due to a hospital-wide vaccine mandate. In New York, all hospice workers will be required to vaccinate by October 7. Healthcare providers there are already reporting 10% to 30% staffing loss due to the mandate.

When Will the White House Plan take Effect?

In keeping with the White House plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plan to issue an interim final rule in October. However, CMS is signaling that hospice agencies should start vaccinating now. Their announcement earlier this month uses the word “immediately.” CMS states, “CMS expects certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interest of patients and staff by complying with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements.  Health care workers employed in these facilities who are not currently vaccinated are urged to begin the process immediately. 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.”