LONSBERRY: Biden is Nuking Nursing Homes

Joe Biden is going to do to nursing homes what he did to Afghanistan.

               His decree that all nursing home employees must be vaccinated, or their employers would lose their Medicare and Medicaid funding, is going to set off a staffing crisis that may force some facilities to close. At best, it will create stresses and resentments in the American nursing home industry that will hurt residents and communities.

               He announced it yesterday. While the rest of the world was horrified by what is likely the most damaging international development of the generation, Joe Biden prattled on about Republican governors and booster shots and cracking down on nursing home workers.

               As a distraction, it was a failure.

               As policy, it was even worse.

               Here’s the background: Something like half of America’s nursing home workers are vaccinated against covid. Joe Biden says that’s unacceptable. So he’s going to mandate they all be vaccinated. He’s going to require nursing homes to make sure their staffs are 100 percent vaccinated. He’s going to do that by withholding Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from any facilities that aren’t.

               That would instantly bankrupt those facilities.

               Medicaid pays for the nursing home industry in America. Period. At an average of $7,500 per month for a room you share with somebody else, very few families can afford nursing home costs. So they use the very brief Medicare benefit, spend themselves into poverty, and then Medicaid picks it up.

                Medicaid picks it all up. Medicaid is the god of nursing home cash flow.

               And if you take away Medicaid, you ship grama home and turn off the lights, because you’re out of business.

               That’s what Joe Biden threatened an industry with yesterday – instant, government-mandated insolvency.

               Unless they strong arm their employees into getting the vaccine.

               And who are those employees?

               They are mostly poor people. They are disproportionately impoverished black women. Black people are four times more likely to be workers in American nursing homes than they are to be residents in nursing homes. In some parts of the country, Filipinos are also a large share of the workers. Across the country, women predominate in the nursing home workforce, with the largest share of those being single mothers.

               That’s who Joe Biden is screwing.

               That’s who Joe Biden is disrespecting.

               He is telling them that he is going to make this health care decision for them. They are going to take an injection into their bodies because he said so, and if they don’t, he is going to get them fired.

               Impoverished black, single mothers.

               People who have very hard jobs and very small paychecks. People who have often been pushed into this field by mandatory welfare-to-work programs that train them to be CNAs and patient-care specialists. People who look after folks whose own families won’t look after them.

               People who have toiled through almost two years of the covid pandemic, literally on the front line, heroically facing the highest risk and receiving the lowest pay. People who have shown their commitment and compassion – and their crucial worth – by coming in day after day, at risk to themselves and their families.

               That’s who Joe Biden is walking on.

               Why don’t more of these workers get vaccinated?

               That’s their business. They are Americans. Their body is their choice.

               And given the heritage of the lion’s share of them – African-American – the natural suspicion of and reluctance to engage with the medical establishment is neither surprising nor irrational. Google the words “Tuskegee” and “syphilis” and then go lecture a black person about getting shots. See how that goes.

               It is wrong for the president of the United States to declare war on these people and their right to make their own medical decisions. These workers are Americans, they are doing an extremely difficult and important work, they have served honorably and unflinchingly through this pandemic. And to now treat them like children, ordering them to get a shot, is simply wrong.

               And they’re not going to take it.

               Nursing homes will get to 100% vaccination rates because the half of their workers who are unvaccinated are going to quit. Americans have dignity, and they don’t tolerate dictates, especially for paychecks which don’t truly reflect the work they do.

               Joe Biden’s decree will take already understaffed American nursing homes and push out a quarter to a third of their workforce. And that will create a crisis in nursing homes all across this country. Literally. It will shut down many homes and create intolerable stresses in others.

               And residents will be caught in the middle.

               Just like the people of Afghanistan.

               Innocent people devastated by a Joe Biden blunder.

               Finally, all this pain will be caused by a dictate that is ultimately unnecessary. Because, while there are low rates of vaccination among nursing home workers, there are high rates of vaccination among nursing home residents.

               The people Biden is trying to protect are already protected.

               The residents’ vaccinations, with some simple screening of employees and segregation of infected individuals, will provide as much statistical protection to residents as a completely vaccinated workforce.

               Joe Biden is trying to distract us from the tragedy he created in Afghanistan.

               Unfortunately, he is doing so by setting up another tragedy here at home.

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