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May 14, 2021

Health Law Weekly

CMS Requiring Long Term Care Facilities to Educate, Report on COVID-19 Vaccinations

  • May 14, 2021

Long term care (LTC) facilities must educate all residents and staff about COVID-19 vaccines, offer the shots to all residents and staff, and report certain data regarding vaccination and therapeutic treatments under an interim final rule (IFR) (86 Fed. Reg. 26306) issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on May 13.  

The rule, which is effective May 21, requires LTC facilities to report weekly COVID-19 vaccination status data for both residents and staff to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), which is the nation’s most widely used health care-associated infection tracking system.

LTC facilities already must report COVID-19 testing, case, and mortality data to the NHSN for residents and staff but were not previously required to report vaccination data. CMS plans to post facility-specific vaccination status information on the agency’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website.

CMS noted in the rule that immunization education, delivery, and reporting for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are already a routine part of LTC facilities’ infection control and prevention plans.

The IFR also applies to intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICFs–IID), though data reporting is voluntary for those facilities, which CMS said have low rates of participation in NHSN.

“These new requirements reinforce CMS’ commitment of ensuring equitable vaccine access for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, MD, CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “Today’s announcement directly aids nursing home residents and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Our goal is to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and acceptance among these individuals and the staff who serve them.”

Comments on the IFR are due July 12. CMS is specifically asking for comments on expanding the rule’s policies to other Medicare/Medicaid participating congregate settings such as psychiatric residential treatment facilities, group homes, and assisted living facilities.