Justia Summary

In November 2021, the Secretary of HHS announced that, in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, participating facilities must ensure that their staff—unless exempt for medical or religious reasons or teleworking full-time—are vaccinated against COVID–19. Two district courts enjoined enforcement of the rule. The Supreme Court stayed the injunctions pending appeals in the Fifth and Eighth Circuits.

The rule falls within the Secretary’s statutory authority to promulgate regulations “necessary to the efficient administration of the functions with which [he] is charged,” 42 U.S.C. 1302(a), including ensuring that the healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety. Conditions with which facilities must comply to be eligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid funds have long included a requirement that certain providers maintain and enforce an “infection prevention and control program.” Vaccination requirements are a common feature of the provision of healthcare in America.

The rule is not arbitrary. The Court noted the Secretary’s findings that in addition to the threat posed by in- facility transmission itself, “fear of exposure” to the virus “from unvaccinated health care staff can lead patients to themselves forgo seeking medically necessary care.” Nor did the Secretary fail to consider that the rule might cause staffing shortages. The Secretary’s finding of good cause to delay notice and comment was based on a finding that accelerated promulgation of the rule in advance of the winter flu season would significantly reduce COVID–19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.