October 5, 2022
On Monday, October 3, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from ten states attorneys general, declining to hear their legal challenge to the COVID-19 health care worker vaccination mandate created by CMS.
The mandate, which included exemptions for religious purposes, applied to about 10.4 million workers at care facilities that receive federal money.
Republican attorneys general argued that the federal vaccine mandate is unconstitutional, that the mandate disrupted their workforce, particularly in small and rural areas, and that CMS did not properly follow the rulemaking process. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit declined to hear their petition and now the appeal to the Supreme Court has been turned away.
“The denial of review of the CMS Covid vaccination rule by the Supreme Court is an indication as to the breadth of power that CMS has in regulating providers of care that receive federal funds,” said NAHC President William A. Dombi, in reaction to the decision. “While the specific case concerned the Covid vaccination requirement, CMS appears to be positioned to consider other measures that relate to the health and safety of patients, including other extended vaccination requirements.”
Back in January 2022, the Supreme Court voted to block a vaccination-and-test for large businesses rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but voted to allow the CMS mandate to continue, lifting two lower court injunctions against the mandate. In upholding the mandate in that case, the justices wrote that “perhaps the most basic, given the department’s core mission — is to ensure that the healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety.”
In January, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccination-and-testing rule for large businesses, including senior living providers, but it voted 5-4 to let the CMS mandate proceed, lifting two injunctions against it. At the time, the justices wrote that one function of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which CMS is a part, and “perhaps the most basic, given the department’s core mission — is to ensure that the healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety.”
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