By Tom Hals
(Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday blocked in 10 states a Biden administration vaccine requirement, finding the agency that issued the rule mandating healthcare workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus likely exceeded its authority.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp in St. Louis prevents the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers until the court can hear legal challenges brought by the 10 states.
The ruling is the second legal setback for the Biden Administration’s requirements aimed at increasing the use of vaccines to halt the COVID-19 pandemic. A federal appeals court in New Orleans earlier this month blocked a sweeping workplace mandate that requires businesses with at least 100 employees to get their staff vaccinated or tested weekly.
Republican state attorneys general sued the administration in early November over the CMS rule, seeking to block the requirement because they alleged it would worsen healthcare staffing shortages.
Schelp said CMS had significantly understated the burden of its mandate on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care.
Schelp’s ruling applied in the 10 states that brought the case: Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire.
On Nov. 4, CMS issued the interim final rule it said covers over 10 million people and applies to around 76,000 healthcare providers including hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis centers.
Providers that fail to comply with the mandate could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid funds. Medicare serves people 65 and older and the disabled. Medicaid serves the poor.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot)