On May 31st, 2023, the CMS declared a final rule that will end COVID-19 testing and staff vaccination requirements. The rule will be put into effect on August 4th, 2023, sixty days after its publication on June 5th, 2023.
Under this final rule, the CMS makes three significant changes:
- It removed the expired language about staff and resident COVID-19 testing requirements issued in the interim final rule (IFR) titled “LTC Facility Testing” from September 2nd, 2020.
- It withdrew the regulations published in the IFR titled “COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination” from November 5th, 2021.
- It finalized previously published provisions in the IFR titled “COVID-19 Vaccine Educate and Offered” from May 13th, 2021.
As part of the revised CMS rule, the requirements to vaccinate long-term care staff for COVID-19 outlined in the staff vaccination IFC will be withdrawn entirely. The federal mandate for all staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or obtain a medical exemption will also be eliminated on that same date.
However, it is essential to note that while vaccinating healthcare staff and long-term care residents will no longer be mandatory, both groups are encouraged to stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccination status of healthcare staff and residents will still be reported through the SNF Quality Reporting Program (QRP). Meanwhile, the CMS will continue to uphold the requirements of the “COVID-19 Vaccine Educate and Offer rule,” which requires all long-term care facilities to educate their staff and residents about the COVID-19 vaccine while offering the vaccine to them. Further guidance on this rule can be found in QSO-21-19-NH.
While some rule elements are still being finalized, the CMS has clarified that they will only enforce the staff vaccination provisions until August 4th. In preparation for the final rule, long-term care facilities and ICF-IID are advised to review their COVID-19 policies and procedures to ensure they continue compliance with the finalized requirements.
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