Judge blocks federal vaccination mandate for healthcare workers in 10 states

In 10 states, including Missouri, a federal judge has blocked a CMS mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for eligible staff at healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp in the Eastern District of Missouri issued the ruling Nov. 29. He wrote that a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate in the 10 states is warranted pending a full judicial review of the rule's legality.

"Plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their argument that Congress has not provided CMS the authority to enact the regulation at issue here," Mr. Schelp said.

Furthermore, he wrote that even if CMS has this authority to enact the rule, the states are likely to succeed in their argument that CMS unlawfully bypassed federal notice and comment requirements.

Mr. Schelp's ruling is in response to a lawsuit brought Nov. 10 by Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Kansas. 

The lawsuit challenges the authority of CMS to implement the mandate. It also argues that the rule could exacerbate the existing healthcare staffing problem, according to court documents.

CMS has advocated for the mandate amid legal challenges, saying it addresses the risk of unvaccinated healthcare staff to patient safety and provides uniformity in U.S. healthcare.

In his ruling, Mr. Schelp wrote, "No one questions that protecting patients and healthcare workers from contracting COVID is a laudable objective. But the court cannot, in good faith, allow CMS to enact an unprecedented mandate that lacks a 'rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.'"

The CMS regulation is expected to cover more than 17 million workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings nationwide, including about 76,000 providers.

To comply with the regulation, healthcare facilities must establish a policy ensuring staff have received at least one vaccine dose before providing any treatment or other services by Dec. 6. Staff must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, and healthcare facilities are required to develop plans and processes to provide religious and medical exemptions and accommodations as appropriate.

A federal judge on Nov. 20 denied Florida's request to block the CMS rule.

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