District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Blocking Biden Administration’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers Nationwide

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On November 30, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana halted the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at certified Medicare and Medicaid providers and suppliers. The decision applies not just to the fourteen states that were parties to the lawsuit but to all healthcare workers nationwide. The court reasoned that unvaccinated healthcare workers in states other than those party to the suit also needed protection. Following the decision, CMS issued a memorandum on December 2, 2021 announcing that it would suspend enforcement of the vaccine mandate while the injunction is in effect.

As previously reported, CMS’s interim final rule requires staff at 21 types of healthcare facilities and service providers that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, 2022. Under the interim final rule, healthcare staff and others providing services to these facilities must receive the first dose of the vaccine prior to December 6, 2021 and be fully vaccinated or receive a medical or religious exemption by January 4, 2022.

The fourteen states challenging the rule are Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky (the Plaintiff States). The Plaintiff States filed their complaint on November 15, 2021, alleging several constitutional and statutory violations including violations of the Administrative Procedures Act and Social Security Act. The complaint alleges that the vaccine mandate exceeds CMS’s statutory authority under the Social Security Act (SSA), because the SSA does not clearly authorize CMS to impose a vaccine mandate. The complaint also alleges that the vaccine mandate imposes a significant economic burden on the healthcare industry.

In granting the injunction, the court found that the Plaintiff States’ arguments were likely to succeed on the merits. The court agreed with the Plaintiffs that the SSA does not give CMS the power to issue the vaccine mandate. Principles of separation of powers, the court explained, also establish that Congress, not a government agency, should be the body mandating a vaccine to over 10 million health care workers.

As previously reported, the ruling came one day after a federal district court in Missouri issued a similar injunction blocking the vaccine mandate in the ten states that were parties to that lawsuit in Missouri. According to the CMS memorandum suspending enforcement of the vaccine mandate, CMS has appealed both the Louisiana and Missouri court decisions and has filed motions to stay the injunctions.

The case is Louisiana et al. v. Becerra et al., No. 3:21-cv-03970,(W.D. La.) (opinion filed Nov. 30, 2021). The full opinion is available here.

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