Pa. nursing homes worry about unintended consequences of Biden vax mandate

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — President Biden’s statement that “vaccination rates among nursing home staff significantly trail the rest of the country?” They don’t dispute that.

His assertion that “studies show that highly vaccinated nursing home staff is associated with at least 30 percent less covid-19 cases among long-term care residents?” They don’t take issue with that either. And they want all their staff to get vaccinated.

So why do the people who represent Pennsylvania’s nursing homes use words like “disastrous” and “catastrophic” to describe the Biden administration’s solution to the problem?

Because they say the solution — a requirement for long-term care facilities to vaccinate all their workers or lose Medicaid and Medicare funding — could have severe unintended consequences.

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“To withhold Medicaid and Medicare dollars would be disastrous for nursing homes,” Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities said. So opting out of the requirement isn’t an option.

But Shamberg said many facilities are already dealing with staffing shortages, and he said mandating vaccinations for workers — rather than causing them to get vaccinated — could cause them to quit and work somewhere else, such as a hospital, which might not require vaccinations.

Adam Marles, president, and CEO of LeadingAge PA, which represents hundreds of other mostly non-profit facilities, agreed.

“If there’s going to be a vaccine mandate, it should be for all health care workers, not just targeting nursing home workers,” Marles said.

Shamberg said the requirement is particularly onerous in Pennsylvania, because of the state’s relatively senior population and its related high demand for long-term care.

But some facilities are less impacted than others by the new mandate because some already had decided to mandate vaccinations on their own.

“I’m proud that Normandie Ridge is part of an organization that had already announced a vaccination requirement for associates earlier this month,” Lauren Dieter, executive director of the York County facility, said in a statement provided to abc27 News. “I know how deeply the associates who work here care for the residents they serve. We are hopeful that all who are able to will choose to get the vaccine.”

Dieter said 67% of Normandie Ridge workers were vaccinated as of early August, a figure corroborated by federal data, on the way to a planned 100% by Sept. 30. An abc27 News review of the same data found worker vaccination rates as low as about 30% and as high as about 80% at other Midstate Pa. facilities.

Normandie Ridge’s parent company is Asbury, which also owns Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg.

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