Attorneys general from 16 states asked a federal judge Friday to block the U.S. government from enforcing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate in their respective states before it goes into effect.

The coalition, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, includes Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

Calling the Biden administration’s vaccine policy a “scheme,” according to court records, the AGs contend that the rule violates the 10th Amendment, the Spending Clause, the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine and the Nondelegation Doctrine. They claim that not only will the mandate exacerbate workforce challenges in the healthcare industry, it does not account for changing circumstances as new variants of COVID-19 emerge. 

According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, “by forcing healthcare workers to choose between their jobs or an experimental vaccine they do not want, CMS is affirmatively pinching an already strained workforce — and particularly so in rural areas within the states.”

A LeadingAge spokesperson told the McKnight’s Business Daily: “Vaccines and boosters are the most powerful tools we have in the battle against COVID-19; they save lives. While mandates can sometimes make it harder for employers to keep or find qualified workers, especially as omicron surges and workforce challenges are growing, we continue to support vaccines and boosters, and we urge all members, regardless of care setting or community type, to ensure staff get vaccinated.”

After last month’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the CMS vaccine mandate, American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson said that the association respected the decision but remained “concerned that the repercussions of the vaccine mandate among healthcare workers will be devastating to an already decimated long-term care workforce.

“When we are in the midst of another COVID surge, caregivers in vaccine hesitant communities may walk off the job because of this policy, further threatening access to care for thousands of our nation’s seniors,” he added at the time.

The AG filing Friday is the most recent legal move from states over the administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The intention is to stop the federal government from enforcing the mandate before the Feb. 14 deadline by which workers at nursing homes and other covered facilities must have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or have a pending or approved application for an exemption.