Arkansas Health Care Association Releases Statement on President Biden's COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate in Nursing Homes

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Little Rock, Ark. – On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, President Biden announced he is ordering the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require nursing homes to have vaccinated staff in order for facilities to be able to participate in Medicare and Medicaid and receive funding from the federal programs.

Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, has issued the following statement regarding COVID-19 vaccines in Arkansas nursing homes:

“In light of the recent announcement on vaccine requirements for nursing homes, we remain focused on supporting our healthcare workers and ensuring adequate staffing in our facilities,” said Bunch. “Arkansas has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the region and surpasses the national rate for staff and residents. In addition, some facilities have already required employees to vaccinate, absent a medical or religious exemption request that can be reasonably accommodated. AHCA is proud of the work that we have done to educate our people regarding vaccination, provide resources for staff, and coordinate efforts to vaccinate our residents, their families, and our staff. We believe in and will continue to encourage vaccinations, and will help facilities navigate the barriers to vaccination to comply with the federal mandate. Fear, misinformation, and lack of a trusted medical provider or advisor all serve to discourage individuals from vaccination, including health care workers.

Unfortunately, long term care providers were given a clear choice by the President: risk losing essential frontline workers, or risk the state and federal reimbursement it will take to compensate those workers. This has the potential to exacerbate an existing workforce crisis and jeopardize access to care for Arkansans statewide, and unfairly targets nursing homes and their staff instead of treating all healthcare providers equally.

Arkansas cannot afford a long term care staffing crisis and we must work together to ensure this does not happen. We are calling on state and federal leaders to support our nursing home providers, healthcare heroes and the residents they serve as we monitor the rise of COVID-19 cases in our communities.”

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About AHCA:

Established in 1951, the Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA) is the state’s largest organization of long-term care providers, representing more than 90% of the licensed long-term care facilities in Arkansas. Its responsibilities are to educate, inform and represent members and member facilities before government agencies, other trade associations and related industries.