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THE SUPREME COURT ALLOWS RULE REQUIRING COVID VACCINATIONS FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS TO TAKE EFFECT

On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court allowed the rule requiring staff in healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take effect. The rule allows for medical and religious exemptions and does not apply to staff who telework full time.

The per curium opinion closely examined the text of the statute governing the Department of Health and Human Services’ authority to issue rules regarding participation in Medicare and Medicaid. Quoting from the statute, the Court stated that Congress has authorized HHS to promulgate conditions of a facility’s participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs that it “finds necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services.” The Court concluded that:

COVID-19 is a highly contagious, dangerous, and – especially for Medicare and Medicaid patients – deadly disease. The Secretary of Health and Human Services determined that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate will substantially reduce the likelihood that healthcare workers will contract the virus and transmit it to their patients… The rule thus fits neatly within the language of the statute.

The rule was challenged by two groups of states in U.S. District Courts in the Western District of Louisiana and the Eastern District of Missouri respectively, both of which issued injunctions against its enforcement. The Administration moved for a stay of the injunctions in the Fifth and Eighth Circuit Courts of Appeals and was denied by both Courts. The Administration then moved the Supreme Court to stay those injunctions, which was granted in this ruling. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett dissented.

The cases are and Bercerra v. Louisiana and Biden v. Missouri. The Court’s opinion is linked here.

In a separate per curium opinion, the Court continued the stay preventing OSHA’s rule requiring COVID-19 vaccination or testing of all employees at businesses with more than 100 employees from taking effect.