Policy, Legal

Appeals court declines to reinstate CMS’ vaccine mandate 

A panel of judges on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reinstate a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that was set to go into effect in January. A federal judge had blocked the mandate last month from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after 10 states filed suit.  

A federal vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is still blocked in 10 states after a ruling by a federal appeals court. On Monday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the Biden Administration to overturn an injunction against a vaccine mandate by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS first announced the mandates in November, though they wouldn’t go into effect until January. They would require that all staff of Medicare- or Medicaid- contracted facilities be fully vaccinated, or they could face penalties or termination from the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

Not long after, 10 states brought a lawsuit against the mandate, led by Missouri. They argued that the mandates were arbitrary and capricious, and that CMS overstepped its authority by implementing them without approval from Congress. That opinion was upheld by U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp.

The case was appealed, but a three-judge panel ultimately declined to lift the injunction,  although one of the judges indicated that she would have granted the motion. The next step would be to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Other vaccine mandates are currently working their way through the U.S. court system. For example, another mandate for large employers faced lawsuits shortly after it was implemented, and the Biden Administration is appealing it to the 6th Circuit Court. 

Meanwhile, physician groups, including the American Medical Association, have filed amicus briefs in support of vaccine mandates, saying they could prevent long-running symptoms from Covid-19 and reduce transmission of the virus.

So far, the Supreme Court has upheld multiple vaccine mandates, though most to date been have related to state-imposed rules. For instance, it declined to block a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in Maine, and more recently, upheld a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in New York, even though it had no religious exemption.

That’s not really a surprise, though, given that there’s long-standing precedent for local vaccine mandates dating all the way back to 1905.

Photo credit: Robyn Beck, AFP via Getty Images