Knudsen joins lawsuit challenging federal vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

The AG says the mandate would further burden Montana’s healthcare facilities

By: - November 16, 2021 3:55 pm

Attorney General Austin Knudsen. (Provided by the Montana Attorney General’s Office for the Daily Montanan.)

Montana, along with 11 other states, is suing to stop the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, calling it federal overreach and saying it would further burden the healthcare sector in Montana, where a large percentage of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are already facing worker shortages.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who says he is leading the effort, filed the lawsuit and requested a preliminary injunction on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandate requires all workers at healthcare facilities that receive federal funding like Medicare or Medicaid must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 and have their first shot by Dec. 6. If facilities do not comply, they could lose federal funding. The rule allows for certain religious exemptions.

“The vaccine mandate threatens to exacerbate already devastating shortages in healthcare staffing by forcing small rural hospitals to terminate their unvaccinated workers,” Knudsen said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “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.”

According to the lawsuit, the mandate applies to more than 10 million healthcare workers across the country. Of the 10 million, the lawsuit estimates around 2.4 million are unvaccinated.

Montana ranks among the worst states in the country for vaccinations, with just more than 50 percent of the eligible population vaccinated.

The coalition is asking a judge to rule that the mandate violates a handful of federal laws and the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The states are also asking the judge to temporarily block the mandate from going into effect while its legality is determined.

The suit also alleges the mandate was issued with proper public notice and comment — violating the Administrative Procedure Act and the Social Security Act.

Joining Montana in the suit is attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. The defendants include the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and their directors.

Monday’s lawsuit is the third that Knudsen has joined in an attempt to buck federal vaccine mandates. On Nov. 5, he filed a lawsuit challenging a Biden Administration rule that will mandate employees at companies with 100 or more workers get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. He has also sued over another federal mandate that requires federal contractors to be vaccinated.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .