Lawsuit Endangers Free Preventive Care Rule in Court

( – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Monday, March 4th, regarding the Biden administration’s appeal of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor from Texas that came last year. O’Connor’s ruling threw out part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that required some preventable services to be covered by insurers or employers at no cost to the patient. According to Judge O’Connor, this mandate violates the U.S. Constitution. The ruling has been paused while the federal appeals court hears the appeal.

The services in question include screenings for certain cancers, drugs to prevent HIV, and other preventative services currently covered under the ACA mandate. Not all preventative care would be lost under O’Connor’s ruling. Mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer, among other preventative care measures would still be covered because they were recommended before the ACA, also known as Obamacare, was enacted in March 2010.

Jonathan Mitchell, attorney for plaintiffs in the case, claims the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing a Christian employer to pay for insurance that covers drugs to prevent HIV.

Laurie Sobel, an official for women’s health policy at KFF believes the case will end up at the Supreme Court and insists timing in the matter is critical.

Plaintiffs in the case have filed a cross-appeal that could broaden the areas of coverage in question. Richard Hughes, a health care attorney, claims “everything is at stake”. Hughes claims more preventative care services including vaccines, contraceptives, and other cancer screenings will be affected if O’Connor’s ruling is not overturned.

The 40-minute hearing on Monday in front of the 5th Circuit was more focused on actions by the Biden administration after the lawsuit was filed that were intended to neutralize the challengers’ arguments.

This is not the first time Judge O’Connor has challenged the ACA. In 2018 he discarded the entire ACA but the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

Copyright 2024,