COVID vaccine in hands of caregiver

All staff at home health agencies (HHAs) must receive one COVID-19 vaccine dose by Jan. 27, according to an interim final rule posted this week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Employees must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 26, CMS said. 

The rule, which is an extension of CMS’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued in November, does not apply to 25 states. Earlier this month, a judge reinstated CMS’ mandate in 26 states. The Supreme Court is now set to hear oral arguments regarding the mandate next Friday, Jan. 7. While CMS published this interim final rule in November, it posted it for state survey agency directors on Tuesday. 

For HHAs to be in compliance, staff either must receive vaccinations, have been granted a qualifying exemption, or identified as having a temporary delay as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Staff include HHA employees; licensed practitioners; students, trainees and volunteers; and individuals who provide care, treatment or other services for the HHA.

CMS published separate memos for home health, hospice and home infusion therapy. For instances of noncompliance in home health, the level of deficiency will be based on the following criteria: From 30 to 60 days following issuance of the memo, the expected minimum threshold for use in these determinations will be 80%; from 60 to 90 days, the expected minimum threshold will be 90%; from 90 days on, the expected minimum threshold will be 100%.