A healthcare worker receiving a vaccine shot
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Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will no longer check for provider compliance with the staff COVID-19 vaccine mandate during all surveys. 

The agency, in a memo to state survey agencies on Wednesday, announced that oversight of the regulation will now be performed primarily in response to complaints alleging non-compliance with the requirement, rather than during all surveys. Compliance will also continue to be checked during initial and recertification surveys. 

CMS said the reduction in survey frequency is “supported by the high rates of compliance in initial surveys” and keeping with the normal survey process for oversight of any Medicare requirement. 

“This actually takes out that staff vaccination survey piece that could be during another complaint survey or any other time that there would be anything other than an initial or a recertification survey,” Janine Finck-Boyle, vice president of health services policy at LeadingAge, said during a Wednesday call with members. “This is some good movement.”

The agency also announced that it is revising previous guidance related to Immediate Jeopardy and actual harm findings to ensure deficiency determinations reflect “good faith efforts” implemented by providers and suppliers, and weigh harm or potential harm to patients and residents resulting from any non-compliance.

The healthcare worker vaccine mandate has been effective in all states since late February, and about 12,000 providers and suppliers have been surveyed for compliance with the rule. So far, 95% of those surveyed have been found in “substantial compliance” with the rule, according to CMS.

Federal data also shows that 87.1% of nursing home staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“While we are seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in parts of the country — driven by the highly transmissible omicron subvariants — hospitalizations and deaths currently remain relatively low nationwide,” CMS wrote Wednesday. 

“This is a testament to the tools and protections in place today, particularly the work that federal, state, local, and private partners have done to get over 220 million people vaccinated and over 100 million boosted.”