Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx filed a motion today seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from adopting a dangerous Final Rule that would expand the ability of businesses and individuals to refuse to provide necessary health care on the basis of businesses' or employees’ “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The motion is supported by declarations of 48 leading public health professionals from states across the country, including John Jay Shannon, M.D., CEO of Cook County Health.
“Many Cook County residents are uninsured or underinsured and rely upon county government to provide critical access to medical care,” said Foxx. “I was elected to protect those who will be exposed to the severe impact from these discriminatory policies and I will use the power of this Office to fight against regulations which restrict access to life-saving medical treatment.”
The preliminary injunction seeks to stop the Final Rule from taking effect in July 2019, arguing that it would undermine the delivery of health care by giving a wide range of health care institutions and individuals a right to refuse care, based on the health provider’s own personal views and threatens millions of dollars in funding if Cook County fails to comply. Dr. Shannon’s testimony supporting the requested injunction articulates the threat to Cook County residents, noting that Cook County Health “is one of the largest public health care systems in the United States, providing a range of health care services regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.” According to Dr. Shannon, Cook County Health serves “500,000 individuals annually through the health system and the health plan” and receives “$500 million” in funding placed in jeopardy by the new rule.
Under the regulations proposed to take effect in July, Cook County Health could not ask a nurse prior to hiring if (s)he objected to administering a measles vaccination—even if this was a core duty of the job. Or an emergency room doctor could refuse to assist a woman who arrived with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, even if the woman’s life was in jeopardy. This is particularly troubling for Cook County Health, which operates the “busiest trauma unit in the Midwest,” according to Shannon.
If HHS determines that Cook County failed or other Illinois providers failed to comply with the Final Rule – through their own actions or the actions of thousands of sub-contractors relied upon to deliver health services – the federal government may terminate funding to Cook County and State.
Foxx’s lawsuit argues that this drastic expansion of refusal rights and the draconian threat of termination of federal funds violate the federal Administrative Procedures Act, the Spending Clause and separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution. State’s Attorney Foxx is working with a coalition of 23 municipalities, counties and States to oppose the new regulations.