News | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Healthcare entities are mandating COVID-19 vaccines for staff

News | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Healthcare entities are mandating COVID-19 vaccines for staff

  • Managers and all new employees at Houston Methodist are required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, making the Texas hospital system among the first healthcare entities to mandate vaccinations of at least some workers.
  • On April 14, President Joe Biden signed legislation that pauses a 2% cut to Medicare payments through the rest of 2021.
  • Researchers found that ED physicians retained a larger share of what they initially charged, or what is considered the sticker price, when patients were unexpectedly out-of-network.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.

1. Some organizations are mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their healthcare professionals

On April 9, MedPage Today reported, “Managers and all new employees at Houston Methodist are required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, making the Texas hospital system among the first healthcare entities to mandate vaccinations of at least some workers."

“Others have also recently mandated the shots. That list includes at least three assisted-living facilities with centers in multiple markets: Silverado, Atria Senior Living, and Sunrise Senior Living, according to Washington Post report.”

Post reporter Amy Goldstein wrote in her April 5 article, “The question of whether employers should compel their workforces to be immunized against the coronavirus is rippling through the health-care industry and beyond. It is a question of uncommon intricacy, involving public health, ethics, law, labor relations and ingrained American values.”

“Whether bosses should be able to dictate a protective shot is a polarizing matter among front-line health-care workers, according to a recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll,” Goldstein wrote. “Among health-care workers who have an employer, rather than being self-employed, nearly 6 in 10 said they would support their boss requiring vaccination for all employees who work with patients. Slightly more than 4 in 10 said they would oppose such a mandate.”

Healthcare organizations are not the only employers considering whether to mandate that employees get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Goldstein, who quotes National Safety Council President Lorraine M. Martin saying, “Everybody is thinking about it.”

According to the MedPage Today article, “Houston Methodist already required that employees get vaccinated for the flu, according to a spokesperson, and Sunrise will require that going forward as well. Atria and Silverado did not return queries regarding flu shots by press time.

“Houston Methodist managers have until April 15 to get at least their first coronavirus vaccine dose and new hires must be vaccinated before they start, according to an email from CEO Marc L. Boom, MD, shared by a spokesperson. The system's next step will be to mandate all 26,000 of its employees and employed physicians to get vaccinated, the spokesperson said. No deadline has been set for them yet.”

2. Biden signs legislation delaying a 2% cut to Medicare payments through 2021

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed legislation that pauses a 2% cut to Medicare payments through the rest of 2021, according to an April 14 article in Fierce Healthcare.

On April 13, Modern Healthcare reported, “The House passed legislation Tuesday night on a 384-38 vote delaying a 2% across-the-board cut to Medicare payments for the rest of the year. … The bill is a big win for hospitals and providers.”

Becker's Hospital CFO Report on April 14 reported, “Although the cuts were slated to begin April 1, CMS has instructed Medicare administrative contractors to hold all claims with dates of service on or after April 1, pending the House vote on the bill and a signature from President Biden.

“The passage of the bill by both chambers of Congress comes after providers urged Congress to further extend the moratorium on the payment cuts. Hospital groups argued the cuts would be ‘devastating’ to providers, who are still responding to the pandemic.”

The Modern Healthcare article continued, “Providers still face a larger 4% Medicare cut that could be triggered by passage of the recent COVID-19 relief bill. Because the $1.9 trillion relief package raises the deficit, Medicare and other programs will face funding cuts next year under a federal law called PAYGO.

“Democrats tried to waive PAYGO through the bill that delays the sequester cuts but that was blocked by Senate Republicans.”

3. Health Affairs report: ED physicians retain larger share of pie from out-of-network patients

An April 13 Healthcare Dive article detailed the findings of a new Health Affairs report measuring the financial impact of surprise medical bills on adult patients with private health insurance between 2001 and 2016.

Healthcare Dive reported, “Researchers found that ER doctors retained a larger share of what they initially charged, or what is considered the sticker price, when patients were unexpectedly out-of-network compared to those who were not. Put simply, those physicians retained a larger share of the pie from out-of-network patients.”

“In fact, patients who likely had a surprise bill ended up paying ER physicians more than 10 times as much as those who did not, according to the report,” wrote reporter Samantha Liss.

“Patients with likely surprise bills paid on average $151 in out-of-pocket payments compared with roughly $15 for those without.”

To measure how much privately insured emergency patients paid when they likely received a surprise bill and how much physicians received in those situations, “researchers analyzed nationally representative data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey over a 15-year span. The sample included 8,761 ER visits by adults with private insurance,” wrote Liss.

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About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor with HFMA in Westchester, Ill.

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