A federal judge on Monday blocked the administration of President Joe Biden from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine authorization for thousands of health care workers in 10 states.
The court order says that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid does not have explicit authority from Congress to issue vaccine authorizations to providers participating in two government health care programs for the elderly, the elderly, and the elderly. the disabled and the poor.
The original order of Judge Matthew Schelp, US District Attorney based in St. Louis applies to a coalition of petitioning states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. All of those states have Republican attorney generals or governors. Similar lawsuits are also pending in other states.
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Federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccination for more than 17 million workers nationwide in approximately 76,000 health care facilities and home health providers that receive funding from health plans. government economy. Workers will receive the first dose by December 6 and the second by January 4.
The court order against healthcare vaccine authorization comes after the Biden administration faced a similar setback on a broader policy. A federal court previously imposed a separate rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or otherwise wear masks and be tested for the coronavirus weekly. .
The Biden administration argues that federal rules replace state policies that ban mandatory vaccinations and are essential to slowing the pandemic, which has killed more than 775,000 people in the US. About three-fifths of the US population is fully immunized.
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But the judge in the health care provider case wrote that federal officials may have exceeded their legal powers.
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“CMS seeks to transcend a traditional sphere of state power by placing an unprecedented requirement on federal decision-making in the private health of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism,” Schhelp wrote in his command.
Even with the extremely broad exposition of federal power, Congress did not explicitly authorize CMS to enact “the mandate to change federalism and push the broad political and economic boundaries of the country.” economy,” said Schelp, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump. .
While the vaccine requirement may have implications for long-term care facilities, CMS lacks evidence of imposing it on other health care providers, Schelp writes. evidence that delegation can be dangerous to understaffed facilities. The judge also said CMS improperly ignored requests for notice and public comment when issuing the emergency rule, which “introduced the very vaccine hesitancy that CMS acknowledged was very important.” difficult.”
A CMS spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the court order.
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“Staff in any health care facility that remain unvaccinated pose direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health,” CMS said in a statement. announced on Monday. “That’s why it’s important for healthcare providers to make sure their employees are immunized against COVID-19.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is leading the lawsuit, said the ruling “repels abuses of power” by people who are “using the coronavirus as a tool” to control people.
Officials in several states also praised the court’s ruling. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said “nursing homes are at risk of closing” if the mandate remains.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said vaccines are the best protection against COVID-19, but health care providers “deserve the freedom and ability to make health care decisions.” their own wisdom”.
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