MISSOULA – The Montana Medical Association, along with other organizations and individuals, filed suit in Missoula Federal District Court on September 22, 2021, challenging House Bill 702 as it applies to Montana’s physicians and hospitals. 

The MMA released the following statement following the filing of the complaint:

The Montana Medical Association is joining this lawsuit to restore a physician’s ability to protect the safety of their vulnerable patients when providing needed medical services. As written, HB 702 jeopardizes physicians’ ability to maintain best practices now in place for protecting patients and staff from vaccine-preventable diseases.

HB 702, passed in the final days of the 2021 Legislative session, directly prohibits physician offices from following long-held evidence-based practices that create the safest environment possible for our patients and employees. This includes the ability to take reasonable mitigation steps if an employee has not been vaccinated for infectious diseases, such as rubella, smallpox, polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and others. 

The most ill come through physician office doorways to receive medical care. House Bill 702 has put in place a barrier to observing proven infection prevention and control measures that reduce the risks posed to employees, patients, and visitors and prevent the transmission of infectious diseases. It legislates and infringes upon the practice of medicine by Montana’s private physician offices and impedes on the independent medical judgment of physicians across our state. Other locations of care were provided exemptions or exceptions under this bill, but not physicians’ offices.

HB 702 substantially impacts medical providers in a way we believe was not the intent of the legislation. Therefore, we are challenging it in court to ensure physicians can return to doing what is in the best interest of their patients by preventing the spread of crippling and life-threatening diseases within the very location where medical care is sought. 

To be clear, HB 702, while passed in the context of COVID-19, has wide-ranging impacts outside of the current pandemic. This suit is challenging the impact HB 702 is having on physician offices providing quality, safe health care to patients. It is about protecting patients and staff in doctor’s offices and clinics across Montana.

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