The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now recommends that everyone 18 and older get a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as possible to help boost overall protection and reduce the risk of an omicron-fueled wave during the winter months.1 But what does this guidance mean for hospice providers and staff? Here’s what facilities can expect as the vaccine booster rollout gets underway.
1) Vaccine Mandates Remain in Flux
On November 4th, 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued a mandate requiring the vaccination of all eligible staff working Medicare or Medicaid-participating healthcare facilities, along with the mandatory vaccination of all eligible staff in businesses with over 100 employees.2 Shortly after the announcement, both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CMS) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued directives supporting the enforcement of this mandate as of January 4th, 2022.3,4
Legal challenges across the United States, however, have resulted in a temporary hold on the plan. On November 6th, a federal appeals court in New Orleans said the business rule was “a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer.” Shortly after, federal judges also put a hold on the Medicare and Medicaid programs.5
Mandated first, second and booster shots for hospice providers are currently in limbo. While getting both shots and the booster helps increase defense against serious illness and death and protect patients in care, current plans rely on voluntary participation until legal challenges are addressed.
2) Businesses Can Still Require Vaccines
For hospices, however, there’s also another side to this story. While government agencies have been temporarily blocked from mandating vaccines, these court orders don’t apply to private businesses. As of November 17th, 60 percent of businesses plan to go ahead with their own vaccine mandates, 30 percent said they’re considering how best to proceed — and just 10 percent say they’re moving away from current vaccine plans.6
In practice, this means that even if CMS and OSHA mandates can’t be applied to hospices with over 100 employees or those in Medicare and Medicaid-participating programs, employers can still choose to mandate booster vaccinations for employees. A better-protected workforce means reduced risk for patients and reduced worry for family members concerned about the spread of COVID within closed environments.
There’s also a compassionate case for the requirement of COVID booster shots. As noted by a recent study, families often show spontaneous gratitude for the “professionalism and care” shown by hospice staff.7 Getting the booster shot demonstrates a focus on the peace of mind of patients and their families.
3) Accurate Records are Essential
No matter how the booster shot rollout happens — by federal mandate, business requirement, or personal choice — hospices need a way to accurately collect and track vaccine information among staff, both for compliance and employment purposes. With booster shots now the norm and likely to continue as new variants emerge, secure and streamlined tools can help hospices quickly capture and verify vaccine data so staff can get back to what matters: delivering compassionate care.
Looking to streamline administrative processes and boost operational compliance with emerging health mandates? Discover how Net Health Hospice can help.
Best Practices to Eliminate Compliance Gaps in Hospices
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots,” November 29, 2021.
2 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “Biden-Harris Administration Issues Emergency Regulation Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for Health Care Workers,” November 4, 2021.
3 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Testing Standard,” November 5, 2021.
4 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination,” November 5, 2021.
5 Public Broadcasting System (PBS), “What’s the Status of the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate in the U.S.?,” December 2, 2021.
6 CNN, “Biden’s Vaccine Mandate is on Hold, but Companies are Moving Ahead Anyway,” November 17, 2021.
7 BMC Palliative Care, “What are Families Most Grateful for After Receiving Palliative Care? Content Analysis of Written Documents Received: A Chance to Improve the Quality of Care,” September 17, 2017.