10 states challenge healthcare worker vaccination mandate

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A coalition of 10 states sued the federal government Nov. 10 in an attempt to halt the federal mandate that healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs get COVID-19 vaccinations. 

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Missouri, marks the first legal challenge to CMS requirements, which cover more than 17 million workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings, according to Bloomberg Law. 

The 10 states, led by Missouri, are challenging the authority of CMS to implement the mandate. They also argue that rolling out the requirements could worsen healthcare staffing shortages across the country, especially in rural areas, according to The Hill.

The vaccination mandate "threatens with job loss millions of healthcare workers who risked their lives in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to care for strangers and friends in their communities," the 58-page complaint states.  

The lawsuit was brought by Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Kansas. 

To comply with the regulation, healthcare facilities paid by Medicare and Medicaid must establish a policy ensuring workers have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose before providing any care or treatment by Dec. 6. All staff must receive the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated — either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson — by Jan. 4. The regulation allows exemptions based on religious beliefs or recognized medical conditions. 

The complaint follows similar lawsuits filed by states over the federal government's vaccinate-or-test mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees. An appeals court issued a ruling Nov. 6  temporarily halting the mandate.

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