Staffing concerns, government overreach cited in lawsuit challenging health care vaccine mandate

OHIO — Ohio’s Attorney General has signed onto a Louisiana lawsuit that challenges the legality of the federal vaccine mandate for people working at health care facilities.

“We have seen the challenges nursing homes and other facilities have had in retaining and recruiting staff,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “This mandate, and the walkouts that will likely follow, will only make those challenges worse– leaving vulnerable Ohioans without adequate care.”

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The Biden-Harris Administration is requiring the COVID-19 vaccination of eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combatting the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we’re seeing,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “(The) 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.”

The legal action by Yost is the latest in his efforts “to fight illegal overreach by the administration,” the Ohio Attorney General’s office said.

“It’s an unlawful use of executive power,” Yost said,” The president does not have the authority to make health-care decisions for Americans.”

Previously, Yost challenged other vaccine mandates, including a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth District that challenges the vaccine mandate for federal contractors and other Americans who work at companies with at least 100 employees under an OSHA policy.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Fifth District has put a pause on the OSHA policy while lawsuits are pending. The Biden Administration Tuesday asked for the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth District to overrule the block on the mandate, according to a report from CNN.

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In its announcement of the new healthcare vaccine mandate earlier this month, the CMS said the prevalence of the COVID-19 Delta variant and staffing strains from illness or exposure also were part of the decision to enforce the mandate.

“These requirements will apply to approximately 76,000 providers and cover over 17 million health care workers across the country. The regulation will create a consistent standard within Medicare and Medicaid while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care,” CMS said in a statement.

Under the mandate, all eligible staff must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. That means either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CMS said the mandate does provide exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, observances, or practices.

Kettering Health Network and Dayton Children’s Hospital made changes this month to its vaccine requirements for staff following the CMS announcement, removing temporary exemptions for those who provide proof of a positive antibody test, pregnant, trying to conceive or breast feeding.

The new CMS regulation also will apply to hospice, long-term care and other facilities.