Senior living providers have been on the leading edge of implementing Covid-19 vaccine mandates for employees — and soon, they must be joined by every large company in the United States.
President Biden on Thursday announced plans to order companies with 100 or more employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for workers or test them for Covid-19 weekly.
The new emergency rule is under development at the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA will also require employers with more than 100 workers to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated. Businesses that ignore the new rule could face fines of as much as $14,000 per violation, a senior Biden administration official told the Washington Post.
The new rules are expected to impact more than 80 million workers in private-sector businesses with 100+ employees, according to the federal government, and the policies generally drew praise from senior housing and care industry associations.
One notable exception was Argentum, which used the occasion to once again lambast the federal government for not disbursing remaining Provider Relief Fund dollars.
According to Argentum, there is about $27 billion from that fund left to dole out. And the association called Biden’s plan “not a path out of the pandemic, but a path toward bankruptcy.”
“These communities have been leading the way to protect seniors, following federal guidelines, regulations, and mandates on a host of issues ranging from vaccines to distancing to PPEs,” Argentum CEO James Balda said in a statement. “Senior living communities need access to this federal assistance now, or many will not make it through this pandemic.”
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) applauded the move to mandate vaccinations after it was announced Thursday. In particular, the organization believes the new mandate will help prevent an exodus of workers from the long-term care industry to other health care settings.
Such an exodus has been a concern ever since the administration previously announced its intention to mandate vaccines for those who work in nursing homes. On Thursday, the White House extended that mandate to all health care settings that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.
“This will help prevent unvaccinated nursing home staff from looking for new lines of work, alleviating some of the staffing challenges too many long-term care facilities are currently facing,” AHCA/NCAL CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement. “Nearly 4,000 providers expressed their concerns about a federal mandate only for nursing home staff, and we appreciate the administration listening to those concerns and applying this policy more broadly.”
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan also applauded the move, and said broadening the federal vaccine mandate to include frontline health care staff “just makes sense.”
“This action not only shores up protection for older adults who move across care settings, but also levels the playing field among providers competing for in-demand health care workers,” Sloan said. “Vaccine mandates for federal employees and workers at businesses with 100+ employees further protect older adults throughout the community.”
The new mandate is part of a six-pronged plan from the Biden Administration meant to provide a “path out of the pandemic.” Other new efforts in that plan include requiring all federal employees to get inoculated and calling on sports and entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative test from patrons.
“We’re going to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America,” Biden said Thursday.
He singled out the health care workforce specifically.
“If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated — simple, straightforward, period,” Biden said.
Now, some providers and pharmacies are gearing up to administer booster shots for residents and staff when they are authorized to do so.
Given the staffing levels required for senior living communities, it is likely that a wide swath of the senior living industry will need to mandate the vaccine for their own workers if they haven’t already, under the new federal mandates.
However, many of the largest U.S. senior living providers — including Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD), LCS, Atria Senior Living, Senior Lifestyle Corp. and Holiday Retirement — already have vaccine mandate policies in place.
The post Senior Living Groups Praise Sweeping New Vaccine Mandates, Blast Lack of Financial Relief appeared first on Senior Housing News.