Federal Judge in Texas Rules Against Obamacare Mandate Providing Preventive Coverage for Serious Conditions

Obamacare (Photo: Getty Images)

A federal judge on Thursday invalidated an Obamacare mandate requiring most private health insurance plans to offer free preventive care, encompassing screenings for cancers like breast, colon, cervical, and lung, as well as HIV prevention drugs.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. Northern District Court of Texas’s ruling pertains to medications, screenings, and other health services endorsed by an expert panel known as the Preventive Services Task Force, established under the Affordable Care Act.

Previously, private health plans were obligated to cover mammograms for women aged 50-74, cancer screenings, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention in high-risk groups, and screenings for sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Additionally, the mandate encompassed screenings for Type 2 diabetes and a range of other preventive health measures.

In the same ruling, Judge O’Connor dismissed an argument by plaintiffs to also overturn the birth control mandate under Obamacare, which requires coverage without out-of-pocket costs.

Approximately 150 million Americans benefited from free preventive care under these provisions, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

Lawrence Gostin, a prominent health law expert from Georgetown University Law Center, expressed concern over the implications of the ruling, stating,

“Virtually everything Americans have come to rely on to keep themselves and their families healthy and to prevent disease is no longer going to be required under the Affordable Care Act.”

Protest to Retain Obamacare (Photo: Getty Images)

The Biden administration is expected to appeal the decision. Kamara Jones, a spokesperson for Health and Human Services, affirmed they are consulting with the Justice Department on the next steps.

“Preventive care is an essential part of health care: it saves lives, saves families money, and improves our nation’s health,” Jones emphasized. “Actions that strip away this decade-old protection are backwards and wrong.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged immediate appeal, denouncing the ruling as “outright dangerous” and potentially life-threatening.

Gostin predicted that while most private insurers may continue to cover these preventive services, many individuals, particularly working-class Americans, may face deductibles and copays that deter them from accessing essential health care.

Judge O’Connor’s ruling contested the legality of coverage requirements based on recommendations from the Preventive Services Task Force, arguing that panel members were not appointed through the proper constitutional process.

The Task Force comprises 16 volunteers, including doctors, nurses, public health experts, and medical professionals, appointed by the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The ruling followed a lawsuit filed in 2020 by two Christian businesses and several individuals, challenging the mandate on grounds of religious freedom, particularly objecting to coverage of HIV prevention drugs.

According to the plaintiffs, the PrEP mandate compels religious employers to support practices conflicting with their beliefs about sexuality and morality.

They also contested the validity of the Task Force’s recommendations, alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Appointments Clause in the selection process for its members.

Categorized as Health

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