As cases mounted earlier this year, several medical societies came out in favor of strict mandates for health care workers, arguing these employees have a special obligation to keep their patients and colleagues safe. And many large, multistate hospital systems and large nursing home companies began requiring staff vaccination, although others lobbied against blanket requirements.
Many nursing homes had large numbers of workers who remained unvaccinated even after Mr. Biden announced the plan to mandate immunizations. The administration said that about 40 percent of all hospitals already required vaccinations. About 73 percent of nursing home workers are now vaccinated, according to federal data.
In the new lawsuit, the 10 states — Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — claim that the federal government has overreached its authority to dictate what happens in their states. “This case illustrates why the police power over compulsory vaccination has always been the province of — and still properly belongs to — the states,” they argue in the lawsuit.
Despite the push by some nursing homes and hospitals to weaken the requirement, the administration chose to insist on vaccination. “It’s critical to us to make sure we’re ensuring the safety of residents living in nursing homes and other individuals in health care settings,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for C.M.S., in an interview. Vaccinated staff are less likely to get sick and spread Covid, she said.
Ms. Brooks-LaSure acknowledged the providers’ concerns over losing workers who refuse to be vaccinated but she said mandates often ease shortages because employees don’t become infected. “What we’re seeing on the ground is that they are not going to work because they are sick,” she said.
She also cited the experience in states that have issued requirements as evidence that vaccination rates will rise as a result of the government’s decision. Many large systems mandated the vaccine but found only a small minority of employees unwilling to be vaccinated.
While some nursing homes and hospitals have expressed disappointment over the new rules, there is little expectation that large numbers will lose their government funding. Medicare does have the authority to discontinue financing for providers that do not comply, but Ms. Brooks-LaSure emphasized that the agency’s approach will be to work with facilities. “Our focus is really on educating providers and getting people to be in compliance,” she said.