United States: Federal court orders enforcement of Montana law that conflicts with CMS vaccine rule
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On March 18, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana issued a preliminary injunction in Montana Medical Association v. Knudsenprohibiting the application of part of Montana’s vaccination law against “all Montana health care facilities and individual practitioners and clinics” subject to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ COVID-19 vaccination requirement ( CMS).
The Montana Medical Association and other medical groups had sued Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Montana Labor and Industry Commissioner Laurie Esau, challenging the legality and enforceability of a Montana law, Mountain. Code§ 49-2-312, which prohibits discrimination in employment and the provision of services on the basis of vaccination status. The plaintiffs argued that the law violates the CMS rule that requires them to ensure their staff are vaccinated or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. They filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement action by the State of Montana.
In response to plaintiffs’ motion, the state of Montana apparently agreed that § 49-2-312 and the CMS rule conflicted, but the state argued that the competing requirements would not cause compliance issues. because the state would not enforce its vaccination law against entities subject to the CMS mandate.
The court granted a narrow preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction enjoins the application of § 49-2-312 only to entities subject to the CMS rule and only as long as the CMS rule is in force. The preliminary injunction does not apply to state enforcement of related law, § 49-2-313which exempts certain facilities from complying with § 49-2-312, including entities subject to conflicting federal rules.
Key points to remember
Montana employers and entities subject to the CMS Rule may consider reviewing their current vaccination policies and processes in conjunction with their obligations under the CMS Rule. Employers and CMS-covered entities outside of Montana may wish to take note of this ruling as potential guidance on how other courts can resolve similar disputes between conflicting state laws and the CMS rule.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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