IMPORTANT UPDATE: December 1, 2021

On November 30, 2021, a federal district court in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction temporarily freezing of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services vaccine mandate set forth in the November 5, 2021 Interim Final Rule (IFR). The Louisiana Court’s order specifically applies to Montana healthcare facilities as the state of Montana is a party to that litigation and, through Attorney General Austin Knudsen, joined in the request to place a hold on the mandate. The federal government is expected to quickly appeal the district court’s order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and ask the appeals court to reverse the district court’s preliminary injunction pending the outcome of the appeal.

With the federal vaccine requirement now paused, Montana healthcare facilities should return to compliance with the Montana state law that prohibits discrimination based on vaccination status. Healthcare facilities should put on hold the roll out of their vaccine policies that were designed to comply with the IFR as the December 6, 2021 deadline will most likely not be enforced. The situation remains very fluid and is subject to change on a moment’s notice, as we learned with the decision issued yesterday. If the appeals court and/or the US Supreme Court reverse the course of the Louisiana District Court, it is likely a new deadline will be established for compliance with the mandate. Therefore, facilities should be ready to act quickly depending on the outcome of these legal challenges.

SUGGESTED NEXT STEPS:

  1. Notify staff and other impacted personnel that the vaccine requirement is on hold until further notice. (Suggested message below; tailor to your organization’s response.)
  2. Encourage staff to voluntarily receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  3. Return to or adopt policies that are compliant with Montana state law prohibiting discrimination based on vaccination status.

SUGGESTED INTERNAL MESSAGE:
On November 30, a federal district court in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction temporarily freezing of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare staff. The Louisiana Court’s order specifically applies to Montana healthcare facilities as the state of Montana is a party to that litigation and, through Attorney General Austin Knudsen, joined in the request to place a hold on the mandate. The federal government is expected to quickly appeal the district court’s order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and ask the appeals court to reverse the district court’s preliminary injunction pending the outcome of the appeal.

[FACILITY] has halted the implementation and enforcement of our COVID-19 vaccine policies that were designed to comply with this CMS requirement. The situation remains very fluid and is subject to change on a moment’s notice, as we learned with the federal court decision issued yesterday. If the appeals court and/or the US Supreme Court reverse the course of the Louisiana District Court, it is likely a new deadline will be established for compliance with the mandate. Therefore, we need to be ready to act quickly depending on the outcome of these legal challenges.

It is important to point out that the plaintiffs in this recent legal challenge are 10 states including Montana and the defendant is the Biden administration. Hospitals are neither plaintiffs nor defendants in the cases. Hospitals are simply following the federal mandate as a participant in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and our commitment remains to protecting and providing healthcare for our entire community. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the very difficult position of complying with conflicting state and federal laws, and that our team members are suffering the consequences of constantly-changing requirements. We thank you for your patience and your understanding.

We continue to encourage staff to voluntarily receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

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