Some health care facilities question linking federal funding to vaccinations for workers

Coronavirus Watch

OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) Nursing home and long term care centers across the Tri-State and nation are reviewing a new vaccination requirement for their workers.

The Biden administration announced employees must be vaccinated for their facilities to get Medicare and Medicaid funding.

President Biden said the vaccination requirement for nursing home and long term care workers to be vaccinated to get Medicare and Medicaid funding is about keeping people safe and out of harm’s way.

“We understand we do take care of a very vulnerable population, but so do other health care settings,” said Betsy Johnson of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities. She also says those centers are being singled out in the new requirement, and could also lead to a workforce shortage by workers hesitant to be vaccinated.

“When you leave it open to where a health care worker might be hesitant to get the vaccine, and they now face a mandate, that worker in a health care setting might choose to work for a hospital or a home health care facility that does not mandate the vaccine,” she said.

In Indiana and Kentucky, CDC figures show vaccination rates for nursing home staff range between 50 to 60%. In Illinois, it’s between 60 and 70%. Redbanks Executive Director Shari Newton says facilities like hers wouldn’t survive without federal funding, with 90% of residents under either Medicare or Medicaid.

“I believe that everyone in these facilities needs to be vaccinated,” said Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky. He also says he knows staffing is hard to find for these facilities, but they have a responsibility to be protected to protect those they care for.

“We’re going to have to look at both of those issues as they come, but if this is what the federal government says is required to get that funding, then every facility is going to have to do it,” he said.

(This story was originally published on August 19, 2021)

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