According to Biden, the government won't provide Medicare or Medicaid to nursing homes that have unvaccinated staff. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes have experienced a wildly high death toll. Currently, 31 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are linked to nursing homes despite the facilities being linked to just 4 percent of total cases.
Biden announced the nursing home vaccine policy on Aug. 18
Biden spoke in a video announcement on Aug. 18 and said that his administration will be moving forward with a vaccination requirement for all nursing home staff. If a facility doesn't comply, it won't receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.
Biden reasoned his decision by saying, "If you visit, live, or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees."
This move comes after a decision to require federal workers to get vaccinated or else face strict daily and weekly requirements.
Nursing home workers have low vaccination rates.
Recent federal data suggests that nursing home employees have low vaccination rates despite working at one of the riskiest places during the pandemic. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of nursing home employees still aren't vaccinated. The policy would impact 15,000 nursing home facilities nationwide, which employ an aggregate of 1.3 million people.
Nursing home staff were one of the first populations to gain access to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Biden holds Medicare and Medicaid over nursing home staff's heads
Currently, most nursing homes accept Medicaid payments to help cover costs. Even those who haven't qualified for Medicaid in the past might qualify for it to help pay for nursing home costs.
According to Medicare.gov, "Medicare generally doesn't cover long-term care stays in a nursing home." However, nursing home residents often still require Medicare to help them pay for other healthcare costs, like hospital visits, doctor services, and medical supplies. Some nursing homes do work with Medicare funding.
When will the nursing home vaccination policy go into effect?
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is expected to launch the nursing home vaccination policy in September. That gives unvaccinated nursing home employees the chance to get the shot.
Biden is holding nursing home management accountable. If employees refuse to get vaccinated, it's likely that the nursing home will fire them so the building can still accept Medicare and Medicaid payments from patients.
According to a Genworth Cost of Care survey, a private room in a nursing home costs an average of $290 per day, or $8,821 per month. That cost is only marginally lower for a shared room. AARP says that the average social security retirement benefits this year amount to about $1,543 per month.
For unvaccinated nursing home staff, the onus is on them to make care accessible for elders in their community.