UPDATE: Vaccine mandate for healthcare workers reinstated for 26 states – News
This story has been updated to include additional details.
Long-term care providers in 26 states will still have to comply with a federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate after a federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a nationwide block against the rule.
A three-judge panel of the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court did not have the power to block the warrant nationwide, but could only stop the rule in the 14 states that had sued.
It was not immediately clear whether the original January 4 deadline for healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated would remain or be adjusted. The temporary injunctions were issued just days before the December 6 first-round deadline. Industry stakeholders and legal experts have suggested that the best practice for operators would be to prepare to meet deadlines as legal challenges unfold.
Provider organizations had mixed reactions to Wednesday’s ruling, the second this week on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule.
“As variants of COVID-19 emerge and proliferate, we continue to strongly urge all long-term care to get vaccinated and receive boosters,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO of LeadingAge. , in a press release. “Warrants work. Having fully immunized staff and residents ensures that every effort is made to provide safe, quality care for seniors. »
In a call with members Wednesday afternoon, other LeadingAge executives noted that functionally, nothing is changing for vendors at this time. CMS had issued a memo on Dec. 2 telling investigators to suspend enforcement of its rule while injunctions against were in place. The agency did not immediately return a request for comment by McKnight Long Term Care News before the production deadline.
The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living was more measured, saying it “remains concerned” that implementing the vaccine mandate would exacerbate the workforce crisis in the healthcare industry. long-term care.
“Given the legal swing and additional challenges anticipated in court, we ask that CMS and state investigators show leniency to vendors and staff during this uncertain time,” the AHCA said in a statement. statement shared with McKnight’s on Wednesday. “Even during court injunctions, we encourage long-term care providers to continue their efforts to get as many staff as possible to consent to vaccination. We also encourage providers to prepare their policies and procedures so that they are prepared if the federal government’s arguments prevail. Nonetheless, we continue to urge CMS to allow a regular testing option for unvaccinated staff and therefore support any CMS legal remedy or action that would provide this solution.
“Broadcasting Competing Opinions” Coming Soon
This is the Biden administration’s first major court victory for the settlement. A U.S. District Judge in Florida declined to issue an injunction for that state. But Missouri’s Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction on the CMS mandate for 10 other states, despite the administration’s request to lift it.
With Wednesday’s decision, the mandate remains temporarily blocked in a total of 24 states.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which gives the administration at least an interim victory, said the decision of the lower U.S. District Court in Louisiana that issued the nationwide injunction was unfounded overbreadth. The higher court said there was “little justification for issuing an injunction outside of the 14 states that filed this action.”
Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for Western Louisiana wrote Nov. 30 that he had expanded the temporary injunction from the 14 states sought to a total of 40 states “due to the need for ‘uniformity’ across the country.
The 14 states under its jurisdiction (where a temporary injunction is still in effect) are: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, ‘Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. The warrant challenge was led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R). He noted in a statement Wednesday that “the legal action changes nothing for Louisiana’s healthcare heroes; they remain protected by Judge Doughty’s injunction.
The top 10 states where the mandate remains suspended under a temporary injunction are Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Dakota South and Wyoming.
Wednesday’s ruling makes it clear that this is just one more step in a convoluted maze of lawsuits and appeals that will be affected by other rulings, and many believe it could ultimately be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
“We expect this to be appealed fairly quickly,” said Cory Kallheim, vice president of legal and social responsibility for LeadingAge.
CMS’s healthcare worker immunization mandate covers 17 million employees working for 76,000 providers in Medicaid and Medicare funded settings.
“This vaccine rule is a matter of great importance currently being debated throughout the country,” the judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted in their decision. “Its ultimate resolution will benefit from ‘the airing of competing viewpoints’ in our sister circuits. See id. Although here too, as with the other matters before us, we are not in a position to definitively rule on the outcome of this appeal, we anticipate that the Secretary will likely prevail by limiting the scope of the injunction.