The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers is essential to protect patients and save lives, with two former top federal health officials arguing that the Supreme Court is weighing whether the federal government has the power to enforce it.
The healthcare vaccine requirement applies to the roughly 10 million workers in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that receive federal funding through the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Mark McClellan, a former administrator for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under President George W. Bush and Andy Slavitt, a former acting administrator for CMS under President Barack Obama, said the mandate “must stand.”
in an op-ed for Washington Post Published Friday ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the vaccine mandate, former officials said Congress had authorized CMS to issue rules to protect the health and safety of patients.
McClellan and Slavit said that “the law makes each administration accountable for ensuring the health and safety of the patient.”
“Placing a new limit on the CMS’s broad authority to protect patients would have substantial negative consequences for the success of Medicare and Medicaid,” the pair wrote.
Just as the Defense Department must “ensure that a taxpayer-funded fighter jet … is safe, therefore, CMS must also ensure that participating health care providers are receiving care in a safe environment, ” They said.
But lawyers for two different states said the CMS does not have the authority to issue mandates because Congress has not specifically authorized it, and the agency has bypassed normal procedures to allow stakeholders to voice their views. .
In the op-ed, McClellan and Slavit debunked claims that facilities such as nursing homes would lose workers not seeking shots, and said evidence shows vaccine requirements have pushed vaccination rates up to 20 percent. .
“We believe there is a greater risk to the labor pool from illness from COVID-19 than from the need for a vaccine,” the op-ed read.
At Friday’s hearing, Justice appeared receptive to the healthcare vaccine mandate.
However, conservative Supreme Court justices expressed doubts about the need for a COVID-19 vaccine-or-test on those working for companies with 100 employees or more.
Several Republican-led states have obtained injunctions against such a move, which would affect more than 80 million Americans.
And on Friday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that states and Congress, rather than a federal agency, may be better suited to coordinate the COVID response in workplaces.
But McClellan and Slavitt said that the argument against a mandate is not a federal matter that should fall within the purview of only state and local governments, adding that “political divisions have implications for our contentious political environment.”
“This is compounded by misinformation about vaccines.”
It is not clear when the Supreme Court will decide on a mandate.
Since the cases are in a state of emergency, nine judges will not fully review the merits of each case. Instead, they are being asked to temporarily stay the orders of the lower courts while they proceed in those lower courts.
The legal challenges come as the number of infections soars and nearly 40 million adults in the US are still falling short of vaccinations.