Rural Missouri hospitals discussed during Supreme Court hearing on Biden vaccine mandate

Missouri

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office appeared before the United States Supreme Court to deliver oral arguments in Biden v. Missouri. The lawsuit filed by Schmitt’s office challenges the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

It is one of two cases the court will hear arguments for today. The other is about whether to allow the administration to enforce a vaccine-or-testing requirement that applies to large employers and a separate vaccine mandate.

The Missouri AG’s office was the first to file suit against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not to issue a stay of the injunctions issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Louisiana. The injunctions block the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ rule that requires all healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated.

“My Office will never back down from fighting against outrageous federal overreach and will always protect the individual rights and liberties of Missourians and Americans,” said Schmitt after the hearing.

During the oral arguments, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office discussed rural hospitals and health care organizations across Missouri. He said the hospitals and organizations state that the vaccine mandate could lead to potentially devastating staff shortages.

Schmitt’s office says he received declarations from 34 rural hospitals, nursing homes, and health care organizations. Schmitt’s office released a YouTube video of one northeast Missouri doctor talking about the impact the rules have on his hospital.

Legal challenges to the policies from Republican-led states and business groups are in their early stages, but the outcome at the high court probably will determine the fate of vaccine requirements affecting more than 80 million people.

“I think effectively what is at stake is whether these mandates are going to go into effect at all,” said Sean Marotta, a Washington lawyer whose clients include the American Hospital Association. The trade group is not involved in the Supreme Court cases.

The challengers argue that the vaccine rules exceed the administration’s authority, but Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, wrote that both are needed to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths.

Keeping the vaccine mandate for health care workers on hold “will likely result in hundreds or thousands of deaths and serious illnesses from COVID-19 that could otherwise be prevented,” Prelogar wrote.

Nearly 207 million Americans, 62.3% of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of the country has received a booster shot, including the nine justices.

The court said Friday that Justice Sonia Sotomayor would not be on the bench with her colleagues, opting instead to take part remotely from her office at the court. Sotomayor, who has had diabetes since childhood, has been the only justice who wore a mask to previous argument sessions in the courtroom.

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