Numerous states win lawsuits against federal vaccine mandate

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A federal judge in Missouri has granted 10 states a preliminary injunction against the Biden Administration’s rule requiring healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

The federal government overstepped its authority because the mandate was not authorized by Congress, said Judge Matthew T. Schlep of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

On November 4, in a rule that followed through on President Joe Biden’s mandate issued in September,  the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services required all healthcare workers in facilities that accepted Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, to be fully vaccinated by January 4.
 
“Because this mandate significantly alters the balance between federal and state power, only a clear authorization from Congress would empower CMS,” Schlep said in the order. “Given the vast economic and political significance of this vaccine mandate, only a clear authorization from Congress would empower CMS to act.”

On November 12, plaintiff states Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire filed a request for a preliminary injunction to stop the federal government from imposing the mandate. They also want a permanent injunction.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The plaintiff states argued that while the federal government claimed the mandate was to protect patient safety, it would do the opposite due to the resulting staffing shortages.

The loss of staffing in many instances would result in no care at all, as some facilities will be forced to close altogether, the order said. 

Also, CMS lacked evidence showing that vaccination status has a direct impact on spreading COVID-19 in healthcare facilities, other than data it has on long-term care facilities, the lawsuit said.

CMS failed to adequately consider the interests of the facilities, healthcare workers and patients in favor of those interested in the mandate, because it placed a rock on one side of the scale and a feather on the other, according to the complaint. 
 
“In concluding that the mandate’s benefits outweigh the risks to the healthcare industry, CMS did not properly consider all necessary reliance interests of facilities, healthcare workers, and patients,” the order said. “CMS looked only at evidence from interested parties in favor of the mandate, while completely ignoring evidence from interested parties in opposition.” 

The judge also disagreed with the federal government’s claim that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case. 

THE LARGER TREND

When President Biden announced the vaccine requirement in September, the country was facing a spike in COVID-19 infections driven by the Delta variant. The requirement applied to approximately 76,000 providers and cover over 17 million healthcare workers across the country.

Numerous hospitals and health systems have issued their own vaccine mandates for staff.

This week, the World Health Organization declared the Omicron variant a “variant of concern.”

Republican-led states have pushed back against the vaccine requirement.

In another ruling against Biden’s mandate on Tuesday, Louisiana Western District U.S. Judge Terry Doughty also blocked the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in several states. But Doughty added a nationwide injunction, according to the daily advertiser. 

Also, Missouri, Montana, Arizona and Nebraska co-led an 11-state coalition in filing a lawsuit against the Biden administration to halt the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on private employers with more than 100 employees.

ON THE RECORD

“In conclusion, CMS mandate raises substantial questions of law and fact that must be determined, as discussed throughout this opinion. Because it is evident CMS significantly understates the burden that its mandate would impose on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care, and thus, save lives, the public has an interest in maintaining the ‘status quo’ while the merits of the case are determined,” the judge said in the November 29 order.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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