President Biden said Wednesday he is requiring nursing homes to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their workers as a condition of federal funding and scolded GOP governors who’ve overruled schools that want to impose mask mandates.
Speaking from the White House, Mr. Biden said he instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to write regulations that tether reimbursement under the Medicaid and Medicare programs to required vaccinations for workers. He also told the Education Department to examine whether legal remedies are needed to let schools impose the COVID-19 rules they want to in states that have intervened.
The nursing home policy will affect about 1.3 million people who are employed at more than 15,000 facilities that receive federal funds. Reports suggest roughly 40% of these workers remain unvaccinated despite early efforts to get shots into nursing home residents and staff.
The administration says that poses a risk to older residents who were hit hard by the initial wave of the virus last year and face new risks from aggressive variants.
“These steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm’s way,” Mr. Biden said from the East Room.
The administration said data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) “confirm a strong relationship between the increase of COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents and the rate of vaccination among nursing home workers.”
“Since the spread of the delta variant, there has been a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, especially in those states that have low rates of vaccinated workers,” a White House fact sheet said.
Mr. Biden’s get-tough stance comes as governments and employers around the country are turning to sticks instead of carrots to get vaccine holdouts off the sidelines.
Already, the president is requiring federal workers to get vaccinated or face regular testing.
Mr. Biden also credited the private sector — including universities, health systems and corporations like AT&T and McDonald’s — for “stepping up” and requiring COVID-19 shots as a condition of employment or campus learning.
“My message is simple: Do the right thing for your employees, consumers and your business,” Mr. Biden said.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, took credit for the change at nursing homes.
“America’s nursing home residents have borne the brunt of this pandemic and deserve access to long-term care that is safe and high-quality. Given the rise of the delta variant, that requires using every policy lever at the government’s disposal to slow community spread — including leveraging U.S. public insurance programs,” said Maura Calsyn, vice president and coordinator for health policy at the Center for American Progress.
“We are thrilled the Biden administration appears to be adopting our recommendation that nursing homes participating in the Medicare or Medicaid programs must require their staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of participation.”