Florida healthcare providers, companies to face vaccination requirement

After announcing last month that it will require nursing-home workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration said Thursday it will expand the requirement to hospitals and other types of healthcare facilities. 

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said providers including hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical centers and home health agencies will have to meet staff vaccination requirements as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

The agency, which said an interim final rule is expected to be issued in October, pointed in part to the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that has caused COVID-19 cases to surge in Florida and other parts of the country. 

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"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," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a prepared statement. "Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential." 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Aug. 18 that it was developing a regulation to require vaccination of workers at nursing homes. 

The Florida Health Care Association, the state’s largest nursing-home group, quickly raised concerns that the requirement would worsen staffing shortages and apply only to nursing homes. 

"We appreciate our state and national leaders’ efforts to keep COVID-19 rates low, and our long-term care centers have been working tirelessly for more than a year and a half with the same goal in mind," Emmett Reed, the association’s chief executive officer, said in an Aug. 19 statement. "However, by the federal government singling out nursing homes with a vaccination requirement that does not apply to health care personnel at other locations and in other health care sectors, we fear that our already critical workforce shortages will worsen."