At the Capitol: Senate Holds Hearing on Vaccine Mandate and Long-Term Care Workforce Crisis

The Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee met on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to discuss the recently-released rules surrounding the federal vaccine mandate for long-term care workers and the broader workforce emergency occurring in the long-term care sector.

While providers anticipated the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccination and testing rules, there are no concrete solutions in place – either at the state or federal levels – to address potential emergency workforce shortages that the mandate may create.

LeadingAge Minnesota's Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Kari Thurlow, made it clear to committee members that the state is ill-prepared to address the workforce consequences from the vaccine mandate. On behalf of senior services providers, she pushed for approval of immediate wage increases for long-term care workers through the spending of federal money, technical fixes in language related to the Payment Protection Program and Provider Relief Fund, and emergency staffing support.

In response, MDH agreed with the seriousness of the workforce crisis and said that they were looking at all possible solutions, including the ability to leverage federal money and implement rate increases, amongst other solutions. In addition, DHS mentioned that a need for legislative approval limits the agency's actions. The agency urged lawmakers to seek bicameral, bipartisan support for policy proposals.

Thanks to Deb Barnes, administrator at Lakeview Methodist, for testifying at the hearing and sharing a clear picture of the impact of the DHS's interpretation of the PPP and PRF offset in nursing home rates.

Senate Human Services Finance and Policy Reform committee members agreed to continue the discussion on solutions with MDH and are eager to find a fix to the workforce emergency as soon as possible. Any immediate solution that is presented will likely require Gov. Walz to call a special session for approval. LeadingAge Minnesota advocacy staff will be closely working with lawmakers and the Walz administration to help get solutions approved by all stakeholders quickly and urge the Governor at that point to hold a special session to pass them into law.

We hope you consider hosting a lawmaker at your site to help them better understand the impact of workforce shortages and see the quality care you provide to the seniors living in your community. Feel free to reach out to Matt Steele, Director of Government Affairs, to get a visit with your lawmaker scheduled soon!

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