Long-term care facilities will be required to report weekly data on COVID-19 vaccination status for both residents and staff under a new interim final rule, putting more pressure on providers to remain transparent with their efforts.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the new regulation early Tuesday. The reporting requirement will apply to long-term care facilities and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and enforcement will begin June 14.
As data becomes available, CMS will post facility-specific vaccination status information so that it can be seen openly by the public on CMS’ COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website, the agency said.
It added that the new mandate is designed to assist in monitoring uptake among residents and staff, and aid in identifying facilities that may be in need of additional resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LTC facilities are already required to report COVID-19 testing, case and mortality data to the National Healthcare Safety Network for residents and staff, but they have not been required to report vaccination data.
“These new requirements reinforce CMS’ commitment of ensuring equitable vaccine access for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” Lee Fleisher, MD, CMS’ Chief Medical Officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
A growing movement to track
CMS had hinted that a national vaccination reporting requirement could be in the pipeline for providers. The agency put forward a new SNF Quality Reporting Program measure as part of its Skilled Nursing Facility Prospective Payment System proposal for fiscal year 2022.
The proposed rule would have require skilled nursing facilities to report staff COVID-19 vaccination rates to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Healthcare Safety Network starting Oct. 1. Currently, staff vaccination reporting is voluntary.
The agency on Tuesday added that it’s also seeking comment on expanding the reporting policy to other congregate care settings, such as assisted living facilities, psychiatric residential treatment facilities and group homes.
Regulators said they are specifically interested in comments on “potential barriers facilities may face in meeting the requirements, such as staffing issues or characteristics of the resident or client population, and potential unintended consequences.”
The rule also requires providers to report the use of therapeutics administered to residents for treatment of COVID-19. The agency said reporting their use will help government officials and other stakeholders “monitor the prevalence of these treatments, their impact on reducing the effect of COVID-19 on nursing home residents, and support allocation efforts to ensure that nursing homes have access to supplies to meet their needs.”
Tuesday’s rule would have been more expansive, CMS added, but logistical concerns kept the range limited.
“Because we are not able to guarantee sufficient availability of single dose COVID-19 vaccines at this time, or in the near future, to meet the potential demands of facilities with relatively short stays, we are focusing on facilities that have longer term relationships with patients and are thus also able to administer all doses of and track multi-dose vaccines,” they said in a summary of the interim final rule, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.