BILLINGS - In a much-anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large employers but decided to allow the rule for health care workers at facilities receiving federal funding.
The Supreme Court decided with the OSHA ruling, the Department of Labor Secretary lacked the authority to impose a mandate on businesses with more than 100 workers.
With the healthcare worker mandate, involving the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the court ruled that the Health and Human Services secretary's rule falls with authorities given by Congress.
"CMS's requirements for health care workers to be vaccinated will save the lives of patients as well as the lives of doctors, nurses and others who work in health care settings," said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. "It will cover 17 million health care workers at 76,000 medical facilities. The Supreme Court upheld it and we will enforce that."
The Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday has big implications for the two hospitals in Billings.
Both must comply or risk losing millions in federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.
In December, both hospitals halted their rollouts of the federal vaccine mandate after a judge blocked the rule.
It's still unclear what either hospital plans to do now.
St. Vincent Healthcare responded with a written statement: "SCL Health always follows state and federal orders, and the safety of our patients and caregivers remains our top priority. We're currently evaluating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and will provide details soon."
Billings Clinic says it is still formulating a response.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., stated: "President Biden’s private sector mandate is an extreme federal overreach, and I’m glad to see the Supreme Court step in to make that clear."
He also commented on the ruling for the mandate for healthcare workers.
"This mandate is threatening to close Montana hospitals and limit patient access to essential care," he stated.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., did not comment on the mandate for healthcare workers but did on the OSHA mandate.
"I support the Court’s decision and do not believe the federal government should be telling private businesses how to operate when it comes to vaccines," Tester said.
Meanwhile, Psaki said the decision on the OSHA mandate, means employers will determine whether their businesses are safe for employees and consumers.