Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Health-Care-Worker Vaccine Mandate

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a legal challenge to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health-care workers at facilities that receive federal funds.

The justices rejected an appeal submitted by the plaintiffs, including ten mostly Republican-controlled states, after a lower court declined to hear their petition. The vast majority of health-care workers nationwide, 10.4 million, are subject to the mandate, although there are medical and religious exemptions. The case is Missouri v. Biden.  

In their lawsuit, the states alleged that the mandate has exacerbated worker shortages in hospitals and is “now devastating small, rural, and community-based healthcare facilities and systems throughout the states.”

In January, the court struck down President Biden’s vaccine requirement for private sector companies with 100 or more employees but it preserved the health-care-worker mandate pending litigation at the lower court level.

At the time, the justices determined that the latter order fell within the authority Congress had vested in the executive branch to regulate the beneficiaries of Medicaid and Medicare funds. Biden’s orders were originally imposed in November 2021.

“One such function – perhaps the most basic, given the department’s core mission – is to ensure that the healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety,” the Court wrote in an opinion in January. Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett dissented.

Thomas argued that the government failed to demonstrate that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was empowered statutorily to implement a vaccine mandate. Of the two provisions relating to CMS’s power to regulate Medicate and Medicaid, both have to do with “management” and “administration” of the insurance programs, not virus mitigation among staff, he wrote.

“Here, the omnibus rule compels millions of healthcare workers to undergo an unwanted medical procedure that ‘cannot be removed at the end of the shift,'” he wrote.

Alito agreed with Thomas’s judgment, adding, “I do not think that the Federal Government is likely to be able to show that Congress has authorized the unprecedented step of compelling over 10,000,000 healthcare workers to be vaccinated on pain of being fired.” He noted that CMS rushed the mandate, admitting it “did not comply with the commonsense measure of seeking public input before placing binding rules on millions of people,” as it claimed the Covid-19 crisis was too urgent to delay the action.

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