By William Patrick | The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Louisiana and Georgia are among 12 states suing the Biden administration over a COVID-19 vaccination mandate aimed at health care workers.
The mandate applies to full-time employees, part-time employees, volunteers and contractors at health facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. The regulation was issued earlier this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and affects 76,000 health providers and 17 million workers.
Providers must develop a compliance policy by Dec. 6 and ensure all eligible staff receives the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated – either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson – by Jan. 4, according to CMS.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr called the mandate “unlawful” and a “one-size-fits-all sledgehammer” in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal district court for the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division.
Landry said the Biden administration enacted an “unlawful overreach despite acknowledging that there are endemic staff shortages for almost all categories of employees at almost all kinds of health care providers and suppliers.”
“By disregarding not only the law but also the shortages, Biden is jeopardizing the healthcare interests of countless Americans,” Landry said in a statement.
Carr said the health care vaccination mandate, which follows an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) employer vaccination mandate, is an approach to governing that’s causing “immense disruption and uncertainty” for Georgia businesses and employees.
“With this latest unconstitutional mandate, the Biden administration is targeting a health care community that is already reeling from the impacts of a global health pandemic,” Carr said. “Georgia health care providers, particularly those located in our rural areas, cannot afford to lose workers or lessen care services due to the unlawful actions of the federal government.”
The lawsuit alleges the CMS mandate relies on new interpretations of federal law to circumvent Congress and enact the administration’s policy goals, similar to the OSHA employer mandate affecting 100 million private sector workers that was suspended Friday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
“It exceeds CMS’s statutory authority; violates the Social Security Act’s prohibition on regulations that control the selection and tenure of healthcare workers; is arbitrary and capricious; and violates the Spending Clause, the Anti-Commandeering doctrine, and the Tenth Amendment,” the lawsuit reads.
CMS asserts the mandate is necessary to combat the COVID-19 delta variant across health settings and claims unvaccinated staff risk transmitting the coronavirus to patients.
In a statement accompanying the Nov. 4 mandate, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said: “Today’s action addresses the risk of unvaccinated health care staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation’s health care system to strengthen the health of people and the providers who care for them.”
CMS said it will ensure compliance through “surveyors” and “enforcement processes.”
“CMS’s goal is to bring health care providers into compliance. However, the Agency will not hesitate to use its full enforcement authority to protect the health and safety of patients,” the agency said.
Monday’s lawsuit was the third legal challenge lodged by Louisiana and Georgia against the administration’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Landry and Carr have pending lawsuits against a mandate affecting federal contractors. The attorneys general also sued to stop the OSHA mandate from applying to businesses with 100 or more employees.
Landry’s OSHA challenge has proved successful, with a Fifth Circuit appeals court panel saying Friday, “The Mandate threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients to put a choice between their job(s) and their jab(s).”
Carr’s OSHA lawsuit is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. A ruling could come this week.
The CMS lawsuit includes Louisiana, Georgia, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. The states are asking the Louisiana district court to enjoin the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS from enforcing the mandate.
“The Vaccine Mandate causes grave danger to the vulnerable persons whom Medicare and Medicaid were designed to protect – the poor, children, sick, and the elderly – by forcing the termination of millions of essential ‘healthcare heroes,’ ” the lawsuit reads.