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State Legal Challenges to CMS' COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Advance in the Courts

State Legal Challenges to CMS' COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Advance in the Courts

A federal judge today temporarily blocked the federal vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states, which did not include Florida. On November 10, 2021, the following states jointly filed a federal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri that led to this outcome: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp ordered that the CMS mandate remain on hold pending further court proceedings. “[The] CMS mandate raises substantial questions of law and fact that must be determined, [b]ecause it is evident CMS significantly understates the burden that its mandate would impose on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care, and thus, save lives, the public has an interest in maintaining the ‘status quo’ while the merits of the case are determined,” wrote Judge Schelp.

On November 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that requires health care workers employed by a health care facility that is subject to the federal Conditions of Participation (CoPs) to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022. Although Florida did not join the above-mentioned lawsuit, Attorney General Ashley Moody filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against the Biden administration over the mandate in a November 17 complaint. In response, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers denied the request. Attorney General Moody then appealed the denial to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently pending. While this was playing out, Judge Rodgers reversed course over the weekend after learning that the Florida Legislature passed multiple bills during the recent special session that aim to prevent the mandate from taking effect. 

What Does This Mean?

The Missouri court effectively placed an injunction on the mandate in the 10 states that were part of that suit, and Florida's attorney general is striving for the same outcome here. The Biden administration and Attorney General Moody yesterday jointly filed a motion to “vacate” the district court hearing, which is scheduled for this Wednesday in Pensacola. Therefore, Florida is awaiting a response from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear Florida’s case.

We will have to wait and see how Florida's suit will play out in the courts. In the meantime, home health agencies whose workers are subject to the CMS mandate are strongly encouraged to continue taking steps toward compliance by the federal deadline on January 4, 2022.

For more information about the mandates, click here to access HCAF’s resources webpage.

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