Federal court dismisses Texas’ lawsuit over CMS vaccine mandate

Decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal health-care worker vaccine mandate could be imposed,

Updated: January 21, 2022 - 11:03pm

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal health-care worker vaccine mandate could be imposed, a federal court this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by Texas challenging the mandate. Previously, the court had issued a temporary injunction blocking the mandate from going into effect in Texas.

With the court dismissing the lawsuit, the Supreme Court’s ruling applies to all health-care workers in Texas who work at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The ruling is expected to lead to further health-care worker shortages in an industry already suffering from nursing shortages and workers leaving over mandates and burnout. Rural communities in Texas have already expressed concerns, worrying the mandate could even lead to reduced services or hospital systems closing.

On Nov. 5, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule requiring every employee, contractor, trainee, student, and volunteer working for one of the covered providers or suppliers to receive both COVID-19 shots by Dec. 6. If they didn’t comply, the provider would be subject to penalties. Employees would likely lose their jobs.

In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the mandate.

Paxton argued at the time, “These unconstitutional mandates have no place in our country, and they are not welcomed here in Texas.”

As other lawsuits against the mandate made their way through the court system, and eventually to the Supreme Court, the injunction remained in effect in Texas.

After the high court upheld the mandate Jan. 13, it still didn’t apply to Texas’ lawsuit and its ruling didn’t affect Texas providers because the case was still in litigation. But since the case was now likely to not win after the the Supreme Court’s ruling, the federal court in Texas dismissed the case. Now CMS can enforce the mandate in Texas.

CMS announced Jan. 15 that applicable health-care workers in 24 states newly affected by the Supreme Court ruling had until March 15 to receive both Pfizer or Moderna shots or one Johnson & Johnson shot.

Workers in 25 states not involved in the lawsuits were given until Jan. 27 to receive the first dose, and Feb. 28 to receive the second dose. It has yet to announce new deadlines for Texas health care workers.