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Vaccine Mandate for Health-Care Workers Halted Nationwide (2)

Nov. 30, 2021, 11:02 PMUpdated: Dec. 1, 2021, 2:53 PM

A federal court in Louisiana on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine mandate for health-care workers nationwide—except for in 10 states that already face an injunction order.

The preliminary injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana marks the second victory for opponents of the mandate, which requires health workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The court found that the government lacked the statutory authority to issue the rule.

The Medicare agency claims it has authority through provisions of the Social Security Act, which are general authorizations to prescribe rules needed to carry out the Medicaid and Medicare programs, according to the court.

But those provisions don’t “give the Government Defendants the ‘superpowers’ they claim,” the court said. “Principles of separation of powers weigh heavily against such powerful authority being transferred to a government agency by general authority,” it added.

The health agency declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the mandate is critical because “staff in any health care setting who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health.”

The lawsuit is one of four challenges to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule, all of which questioned the agency’s authority to implement a vaccine mandate. A federal district court in Missouri blocked the mandate in 10 states on Monday.

The court in Louisiana said it considered limiting the injunction to the 14 states that brought the lawsuit, but said that “there are unvaccinated healthcare workers in other states who also need protection.”

U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty wrote the opinion.

The case is Louisiana v. Becerra, W.D. La., 3:21-cv-03970, 11/30/21.

(Updates Nov. 30 story with comment from CMS in the fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Allie Reed in Washington at areed@bloombergindustry.com; Alexis Kramer in Washington at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com; Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com