HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading an 12-state lawsuit to stop the Biden administration’s overreaching “job or jab” COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The mandate threatens to further burden the health care sector and patient well-being in Montana, where a large percentage of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are already facing worker shortages.
The 12-state coalition filed the lawsuit and request for a preliminary injunction today in the U.S. District Court for Western District of Louisiana.
“President Biden’s trio of COVID vaccine mandates is an unconstitutional power grab and intrusion into Montanans’ lives. Federal judges have already blocked one mandate from going into effect, and the mandate for healthcare workers should be no different,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “The federal mandates are not about health – they are about forced compliance. Healthcare workers should be allowed to make their own decisions about their health – not President Biden. If his unprecedented overreach is not stopped, healthcare workers will lose their jobs threatening access to medical care that Montanans need.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 vaccine mandate on facilities that receive federal funding for treating patients exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and violates the Social Security Act’s prohibition on regulations that control the hiring and firing of healthcare workers. It also violates multiple federal laws, the Spending Clause, the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine, and the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
More gravely, the Biden administration’s COVID-19 mandate threatens the well-being of people who rely on services provided by the federal healthcare programs and the livelihoods of the those who provide that care.
“The Vaccine Mandate causes grave danger to vulnerable persons whom Medicare and Medicaid were designed to protect – the poor, sick, and elderly – by forcing the termination of millions of ‘healthcare heroes,’” the lawsuit reads.
According to CMS, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate targets about a quarter of the nation’s health care workers who have not chosen to get vaccinated. The Biden administration’s core “objective is to coerce the unvaccinated workforce into submission or cause them to lose their livelihoods.” Without the injunction sought by Attorney General Knudsen, the result will be health care workers losing their jobs and America’s most vulnerable populations losing access to necessary medical care.
This will hit the healthcare system in rural Montana particularly hard. More than 39 percent of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in our state suffer from staff shortages, according to the AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard. More than one-third of staff have chosen to remain unvaccinated, meaning the Biden mandate could make the healthcare workforce shortage much worse.
“The Vaccine Mandate threatens to exacerbate already devastating shortages in healthcare staffing by forcing small rural hospitals to terminate their unvaccinated workers,” the complaint states. “If unvaccinated quit or are fired, that will compel those hospitals to close certain divisions, cancel certain services, or shutter altogether. Those dire consequences stretch across rural America.”
The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by seeking “to commandeer state-employee surveyors to become enforcers of CMS’s unlawful attempt to federalize national vaccine policy and override the States’ police power on matters of health and safety.”
In addition to Attorney General Knudsen, attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia are plaintiffs in the case.
Click here to read the lawsuit. Click here to read the preliminary injunction motion.
Attorney General Knudsen continues to fight the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers in a case at the Eighth Circuit. In a separate lawsuit, federal judges called that mandate “staggeringly overbroad” and blocked its implementation pending the outcome of the case. He has also sued President Biden over the illegal COVID vaccine mandate on federal contractors and federally contracted employees issued via executive order.