Updated: 2 hours ago Published: 10 hours ago
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A coalition of 10 states on Wednesday sued the federal government for trying to block a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health professionals, marking a new front in Republican-led states’ opposition to President Joe Biden’s administration’s pandemic policies.
The lawsuit filed in a federal court in Missouri argues that the vaccination requirement threatens the jobs of millions of health professionals and could exacerbate “an alarming shortage” in the health care system, particularly in rural areas where some health professionals have been hesitant to get the medicines they need. shots.
The suit follows similar moves by Republican-led states challenging Biden’s new government rules that require federal contractors to ensure their employees are vaccinated and companies with more than 100 employees require their employees to be vaccinated or wear masks and be tested weekly for the coronavirus. All mandates are expected to take effect on January 4.
[Alaska among more than 2 dozen states to file suit against Biden’s business vaccine mandate]
The Biden administration says the federal rules are replacing state policies that ban vaccine mandates and are essential to slowing the pandemic, which has killed more than 755,000 people in the US. But the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has already temporarily blocked the corporate vaccine rule, saying it raises “serious legal and constitutional problems.”
A separate rule issued last week by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million employees in approximately 76,000 healthcare facilities and home health care providers who receive funding from government health programs.
The new lawsuit argues that the CMS vaccine requirement is unprecedented and unreasonably broad, affecting even volunteers and staff who do not normally work with patients.
“The mandate is a blatant attempt to federalize vaccine-related public health issues that belong to the state’s police force,” said the suit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate. .
The attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming participated in the lawsuit. All are Republicans, except for Democratic Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose state is led by Republican government Kim Reynolds.
A CMS spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.
As a payer for Medicare and Medicaid programs, the federal government already requires providers to meet a range of quality, health and safety requirements.
“It seems pretty easy to match a vaccination requirement with the eligibility requirements of very diverse types of gardens,” said Sidney Watson, director of the Center for Health Law Studies at Saint Louis University.
In announcing the rule, CMS said the COVID-19 vaccine requirements by private health systems and previous vaccine mandates by states for other diseases have not resulted in widespread layoffs of health workers.
But the lawsuit argues that numerous health workers are likely to be fired, retire or retire in lieu of getting vaccinated for COVID-19, which it said “endangers the health interests of rural Americans.”
The lawsuit highlights concerns from administrators of rural hospitals in Missouri and Nebraska. For example, it says Great Plains Health in North Platte, Nebraska, can only staff about 70 of its 116 beds due to staff shortages, and has been told by a majority of behavioral health department staff that they would rather resign than be vaccinated.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services has more than 1,000 open job openings in its health care facilities, and a vaccine mandate would exacerbate the staff shortage, said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
Vaccination mandates in the workplace have become more common in recent times and have generally led to significant compliance.
In New York City, more than 90% of city employees had received the vaccine before a mandate began on Nov. 1. But The New York Times reported that about 9,000 were placed on paid leave for not following the rules, and thousands of others sought religious or medical exemptions.
In the private sector, United Airlines recently demanded 67,000 American employees to be vaccinated or fired. Only a few hundred refused, although about 2,000 requested exemptions. In August, Tyson Foods told its 120,000 U.S. employees to be vaccinated by November 1. Last week, the company said more than 96% of its staff had been vaccinated, including 60,500 people who received their injections after the August announcement.
Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.