WASHINGTON — Some 10 Republican-led states, including some of the most conservative, sued the federal government Friday, claiming a proposed nationwide vaccine policy puts public health at risk.
Their lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare that a new policy to regulate federally funded programs “would create an arbitrary and capricious or otherwise unlawful regulatory scheme.” It also asks for injunctive relief to stop the rule from taking effect.
The new regulation was proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late August. It is intended to clarify that the government is required to cover certain vaccines in any health insurance programs, including Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Indian Health Service and the newly established federal Health Reimbursement Arrangements.
The regulation is part of a new push by the Trump administration to reduce the role of federal agencies by enacting new rules under the Congressional Review Act.
The new CDC rule would end a licensing process that’s involved in qualifying for the state Medicaid programs, known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The move would mean a decline in state Medicaid coverage for vaccines that the state Medicaid programs will no longer be responsible for covering.
It’s expected to result in savings for states because of the lowered administrative costs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that no state will lose money. The proposal had been awaiting regulatory action by the state because the money is federally subsidized, but it’s now in effect.
“This lawsuit raises a false dilemma,” said Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, who represents the states in the case. “We have more protections against vaccine injury than ever before. Conversely, we have a climate in which vaccination is at record lows, and funding for vaccine programs has decreased.”
Minnesota is one of the more Democratic-led states in its stance on vaccines. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are also part of the coalition of Democrat-led states that sued. Several other Democratic-led states are also joining the lawsuit.
Swanson said the new rule creates an unbalanced playing field for states and ignores states’ longstanding authority to decide who gets funded in their Medicaid programs.
The rule would require states to fund the vaccines only for unvaccinated individuals, reducing their risk for vaccination by as much as 98 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinations are seen as key to preventing outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Vaccines benefit society as a whole, reducing medical costs related to infectious diseases, Swanson said.