In two recent memoranda, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made changes to previously issued survey guidance related to COVID-19 vaccination issues.

In QSO-22-17-ALL, CMS modified the frequency by which State Agencies and Accreditation Organizations will survey for compliance with the federal staff vaccine mandate applicable to health care providers and suppliers (discussed in a prior post).  Noting that 95% of providers and suppliers surveyed have been found in substantial compliance with the rule, CMS is eliminating the previous requirement that State Agencies and Accreditation Organizations survey for compliance with the vaccine mandate during every survey.  Review of compliance with vaccine mandate is still required, however, during initial surveys, recertification surveys, and in response to specific complaint allegations that allege non-compliance with the staff vaccination requirement.  This means that a State Agency or Accreditation Organization is not required to review compliance with the staff vaccination requirement during, for example, a validation survey or a complaint survey unrelated to compliance with the staff vaccination requirement.  A State Agency or Accreditation Organization may still choose to expand any survey to include review of vaccine mandate compliance; however, the new guidance should result in a reduction in survey frequency of this issue for providers and suppliers.

In QSO-22-18-ALL, CMS rescinded, in its entirety, the previously issued QSO-22-10-ALL memorandum, which had mandated that surveyors of State Agencies and Accreditation Organizations be vaccinated for COVID-19.  However, CMS noted that the State Agencies and Accreditation Organizations were responsible for compliance and prohibited providers and suppliers from asking surveyors for proof of vaccination.  While CMS is now encouraging vaccination of surveyors performing federal oversight surveys, the mandate for vaccination is no longer in effect.