CMS at first to cite flu shot non-compliance after finding other offenses

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Providers do not have to worry about being cited for non-compliance with the federal government's new flu and pneumonia vaccination mandate until June, except in cases where other offenses might first be cited.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has notified its regional offices not to check vaccine practices during upcoming surveys, according to Evvie Munley, regulatory expert with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Exceptions could occur if a facility is being cited for other serious problems, such as something pertaining to infection control measures or other resident care issues, Munley said Tuesday at AAHSA's annual meeting in San Antonio, TX.

To the dismay of providers fearing extra paperwork and bureaucracy, federal officials rushed the immunization rule into effect this fall in advance of the flu season.
 
"They're going to enforce it 'by exception,'" she explained. "If there are other problems, they'll 'backdoor' into it."
 
She said it is analogous to current enforcement of a new staffing rule and added that it is possible that CMS could continue "by exception" enforcement after June.
 
Munley cautioned, however, that Section W of the MDS, which became effective Oct. 1, and also pertains to vaccinations, must be fully filled out and is not affected by CMS's stance on the flu/pneumonia immunization rule. The vaccine rule stipulates that providers must immunize all residents, unless medically contraindicated or the resident refuses.
(Published 11-10-05)