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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah joined a dozen states in a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for Medicare and Medicaid providers and suppliers, and asked a federal court in Louisiana to put the rule on hold.
The Republican-led states argue in the 49-page complaint that the mandate is unconstitutional and that the administration has "co-opted" the Medicare and Medicaid system to impose a vaccine on 17 million health care workers.
"The Biden administration is playing statutory shell games with the courts, straining to justify an unjustifiable and unprecedented attempt to federalize public health policy and diminish the sovereign states' constitutional powers," according to the lawsuit.
In addition to the lawsuit, the states filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to bar the mandate from taking effect.
"To protect healthcare coverage in rural areas, Utah just filed a third #vaccinemandate lawsuit. This focuses on the 'jabs or jobs' mandate for healthcare workers," the Utah Attorney General's Office tweeted.
To protect healthcare coverage in rural areas, Utah just filed a third #vaccinemandate lawsuit. This focuses on the "jabs or jobs" mandate for healthcare workers.— Utah Attorney General (@UtahAG) November 16, 2021
Utah has now signed onto three lawsuits against rules the Biden administration has imposed to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate among Americans. The other two lawsuits involved federal contractors and businesses with 100 or more employees.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans last week barred the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from implementing or enforcing the rule requiring workers in larger businesses to be vaccinated or test negative for the coronavirus at least once a week or be fired pending further litigation. Companies that don't comply could be fined nearly $14,000 per violation.
A federal judge in St. Louis is considering whether to put the vaccine mandate for federal contractors on hold.
In the latest lawsuit, the states contend the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' emergency rule for health care workers overstepped its authority. Forcing health care workers to take the shot or leave the Medicare and Medicaid workforce, puts patients at risk.
"The vaccine mandate causes grave danger to the vulnerable persons whom Medicare and Medicaid were designed to protect — the poor, children, sick, and the elderly — by forcing the termination of millions of essential 'health care heroes,'" according to the lawsuit.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is leading the lawsuit.
"While CMS says Jab or Job, I say the feds will not impose medical tyranny on Louisiana's people without my best fight!" he tweeted.
Biden is attempting to turn last year's #HealthcareHeroes into this year's unemployed. I am FIGHTING BACK!— AG Jeff Landry (@AGJeffLandry) November 16, 2021
Just now, I led 11 states in a lawsuit challenging the federal government's COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, CMS director, said earlier this month that the rule 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.
"Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combating the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we're seeing," she said in a Nov. 4 statement.
Facilities covered by the rule must establish a policy ensuring all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment, or other services by Dec. 6.
Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combating the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we're seeing.
–Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, CMS director
Requiring health care workers to take the shot or leave the Medicare and Medicaid workforce harms access to care as well as quality of patient care, the states argue. The lawsuit says the Social Security Act focuses on patient welfare and patient access to care.
"This 'one-size-fits-all sledgehammer' expressly undermines the Social Security Act's singular focus on providing access to care," according to the complaint.
The states say the goal of the mandate is to "coerce" the unvaccinated workers into submission or cause them to lose their livelihoods.
"Though medical and religious exemptions may be granted in narrow circumstances, the goal of the program is to vaccinate nearly all health care workers," The lawsuit says. "This can be done only by changing millions of minds or losing millions of health care workers."
The 12 states filing the lawsuit are Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.