The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is proposing a new quality measure for skilled nursing facilities to track COVID-19 vaccination coverage among its workers. 

The new measure was included in the agency’s SNF Prospective Payment System proposed rule for fiscal year 2022 released late Thursday afternoon.

“Given the novel nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the significant and immediate risk it poses in SNFs, we believe it is necessary to propose the measure as soon as possible,” the agency wrote. “This proposed measure has the potential to generate actionable data on vaccination rates that can be used to target quality improvement among SNF providers.” 

The measure would require SNFs to submit data through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network. To establish a facility-wide vaccination rate, they would report both the total number of eligible workers working at the facility in a given week and the number that had received a complete COVID-19 vaccination course.

SNFs would be required to submit the vaccination data for at least one week each month. If SNFs submit data from multiple weeks within a month, their most recent week’s data would be used to calculate the measure.

Just 37.5% of long-term care staff received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines during the earliest round of a federal partnership program designed to vaccinate residents and frontline workers.

After that finding emerged, leading nursing home provider organizations launched a major campaign to boost that rate. Still, individual facilities have not been required to report vaccination rates among workers.

That has led to frustration among residents and family members, who are arguing for transparency amid the slow vaccination start among frontline staff.

With the new measure, the CDC would calculate a summary measure of COVID-19 vaccination coverage each quarter, and the facility’s quarterly rate would be publicly reported on the Care Compare website. 

“[Healthcare personnel] are at risk of carrying COVID-19 infection to patients, experiencing illness or death as a result of COVID-19 themselves, and transmitting it to their families, friends and the general public,” the agency argued. “We believe it is important to require that SNFs report HCP vaccination in order to assess whether they are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among their HCP, reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within their facilities, and to help sustain the ability of SNFs to continue serving their communities throughout the PHE and beyond.” 

The proposed measure would be made public with the fiscal year 2023 SNF Quality Reporting Program. SNFs would begin reporting the data on Oct. 1, 2021.

American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson acknowledged in a statement Thursday “the importance of quality measures associated with COVID-19 including a proposed measure of the COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage among healthcare personnel.”

The full proposal can be found here.