In the June 5, 2023 Federal Register, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) final rule, “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Policy and Regulatory Changes to the Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Requirements; Additional Policy and Regulatory Changes to the Requirements for Long-Term Care (LTC) Facilities and Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs-IID) to Provide COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Offer Vaccinations to Residents, Clients and Staff; Policy and Regulatory Changes to the Long-Term Care Facility COVID-19 Testing Requirements” will be published. The final rule addresses the provisions of several interim rules that were effective during the COVID-19 PHE, which ended in May 2023.
Here’s a recap of what to know:
Long-Term Care Facility COVID-19 Testing
The final rule eliminates “expired” content that addressed COVID-19 testing requirements for nursing home staff and residents. Those testing requirements were included in an interim final rule published in September 2020. These requirements expired at the end of the PHE in May, and that means that F886 is no longer in effect.
COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements
The requirements to ensure that healthcare facility staff were vaccinated for COVID-19 have been removed. That means that all staff no longer need to be vaccinated (or have an exemption) in order to work in a nursing home. Due to how the federal rulemaking procedure is designed, this rule is technically not effective until 60 days after it is published on June 5, 2023, but CMS has stated that it will not enforce staff vaccination requirements during this timeframe.
However, providers will still be required to “educate and offer” staff and residents the COVID-19 vaccine. The final rule includes language about how CMS is moving towards an approach similar to how it looks at other vaccinations, such as influenza, where facilities need to track, offer and educate staff about the vaccine. The guidance related to F887 includes information on offering vaccinations and other information and can be found here.
There’s lots more details in the document, and the unpublished version of the Final Rule can be viewed here.