CMS has cited 69 hospitals for noncompliance with worker vaccine mandate

CMS said it has cited 69 hospitals for not complying with the agency's COVID-19 vaccination mandate covering healthcare facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Politico reported May 30.  

The mandate, which the Supreme Court upheld Jan. 13, requires healthcare facilities to establish a policy ensuring eligible workers are fully vaccinated, with exemptions allowed based on religious beliefs or recognized medical conditions. 

As of February, up to one-third of nurses remained unvaccinated at some facilities, according to Politico. The agency said it is working to bring the 69 cited hospitals into compliance.

"Since the implementation of the COVID-19 healthcare worker vaccine rule, hundreds of surveys of hospitals have taken place, and the majority of hospitals are in compliance with the vaccine requirement," a CMS spokesperson told Becker's via email. "In total, surveyors have made 69 citations of hospitals since the rollout of the requirement, and surveys are still underway. As a reminder, hospitals are one of the 17 provider types included in the rule."

CMS said it has a variety of established enforcement remedies for healthcare facilities that are not compliant with applicable regulatory requirements. For nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice, these include civil monetary penalties, denial of payment, and as a last resort, termination from the Medicare and Medicaid program.

For hospitals and certain other acute and continuing care providers, the remedy for noncompliance is termination.

"However, CMS' goal is to bring healthcare facilities into compliance. Termination would generally occur only after providing a facility with an opportunity to make corrections and come into compliance," the agency added.

Compliance is based on review of the facility's COVID-19 vaccination policies and procedures, as well as the number of resident and staff COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, a list of workers and their vaccination status, interviews, and observations.

The vaccination mandate is only part of the Politico report, which highlights the challenge CMS faces in ensuring regulations are followed after the agency issues them.

"This gets at the heart of how we've been so unprepared for this pandemic from the start," Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Politico. "CMS is not even intended to be a regulator of hospitals in general, let alone during a pandemic."

Jon Blum, CMS principal deputy administrator and COO, acknowledged the agency scaled back inspections during the pandemic, especially earlier in the pandemic amid transmission risk, but cited improvement efforts since the program's relaunch about a year ago.

"We are holding the health system accountable," he told Politico.

Earlier in May, the agency said it is boosting oversight of hospitals with COVID-19 outbreaks. CMS also has said it will release a full year of data on the number of hospital workers vaccinated against COVID-19 in October.

Mr. Blum told Politico the agency is "far from satisfied" but has made "tremendous progress" since receiving additional funding from the CARES Act early in the pandemic, which primarily went toward prioritizing surveying infection control at nursing homes.

The agency said it is requesting $103 million in additional federal funds, according to Politico.

Read the full report here.  

Note: This piece was updated on May 31. 

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