UPDATE: Dec. 16, 2021: A federal appeals court Wednesday halted the nationwide injunction on CMS’ vaccine mandate granted in the suit brought by 14 states, limiting the scope of that injunction to those specific states only.
- HHS is appealing a federal court decision that halted CMS’ COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers nationwide, according to an appeal filed Wednesday in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
- The move comes in response to a preliminary injunction granted Tuesday by a federal judge in a suit initiated by Republican lawmakers in 14 states challenging the vaccine mandate and the agency’s authority enacting it.
- Another federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by 10 other states Monday, also arguing CMS does not have the authority to enact such regulations.
State and federal lawmakers are battling over the fate of a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that will soon be decided in court.
Under the rule, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dialysis facilities, home health agencies and long-term care facilities will have to ensure staff have received at least one dose before they can provide any care, treatment or services to patients by Sunday, and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.
Facilities that aren't compliant risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. Unlike other federal mandates, it does not allow for a weekly testing exception.
The appeal filed Thursday challenges a case brought by lawmakers from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. They argue CMS lacked the authority to enact the mandate, and in the lawsuit also express how a mandate could exacerbate worsening labor strains, especially in rural areas.
Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction in that case Tuesday and said the scope would be nationwide, with the exception of 10 states that already were granted one.
Those states include Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp in the Eastern District of Missouri granted a preliminary injunction halting CMS from enforcing its mandate in those states Monday, pending a full judicial review.
Some major health systems that implemented their own mandates are pulling back amid the uncertainty, including HCA.
"Because recent federal court decisions have resulted in the CMS mandate being put on hold indefinitely, we have paused our vaccine requirement, except in states that have mandated vaccination," a spokesperson said in an email statement.
Salt Lake City-based Intermountain is also temporarily suspending enforcement of its vaccine requirement "until there is clearer direction from the courts," a spokesperson said in an email statement.
Prior to the pause, Intermountain’s staff vaccination rate was 95%.
HHS has not provided any additional comments on the appeal.