A judge in Missouri today blocked the Biden administration from requiring thousands of healthcare workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit by ten states arguing that such vaccination requirements are a state matter, not something the federal bureaucracy has control over.
The judge’s ruling said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) lacked statutory authority to impose the vaccine mandate on healthcare workers participating in Medicare and Medicaid, health care programs for the elderly and the poor.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp issued a preliminary injunction against CMS. The injunction applies within the states that brought the lawsuit: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. All those states have either a Republican attorney general or governor. This was the first lawsuit challenging the vaccination requirement. Other lawsuits, brought later in other states, also challenge the vaccination requirement.
The Biden administration’s rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in over 76,000 healthcare facilities and home health care providers that get federal funding. Healthcare employees were ordered to get their first dose by December 6, 2020 and their second shot by January 4, 2021.
The court order against the health care vaccine mandate comes after Biden administration was temporarily barred from enforcing an even broader vaccination rule. A federal appeals court previously issued a preliminary injunction against a separate rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to get their workers vaccinated or else have them wear masks and get tested weekly for the coronavirus.
The judge in today’s ruling wrote that federal bureaucrats likely exceeded their statutory authority.
“CMS seeks to overtake an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to federally dictate the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism,” Judge Schelp wrote.
Even under a very broad interpretation of federal powers, Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact “this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate,” wrote Schelp, who was appointed by Donald Trump.
While a vaccine requirement might be warranted for long-term care facilities, CMS lacks evidence for imposing it on other health care providers and ignored evidence that the mandate could jeopardize understaffed facilities, Schelp said. He also ruled that CMS improperly bypassed public notice and comment requirements when issuing the emergency rule, which he said “feeds into the very vaccine hesitancy CMS acknowledges is so daunting.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose state was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the ruling “pushes back on the overreach of power” by those who are “using the coronavirus as a tool” for control over people.
Officials in several states agreed with the court ruling. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said “nursing homes were at risk of closure” if the requirement were not suspended.