WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Texas struck down provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require health insurers to provide some preventive care services free.
The ruling could jeopardize coverage nationwide for people who rely on the health care law to preventive services such as cancer screenings and HIV medications.
In the decision, US District Judge Reed O’Connor cited his earlier decision on the structure of the US Preventive Services Task Force. Related preventive care mandates are illegal.
O’Connor also said that Obamacare’s requirement to cover drugs that prevent HIV, known as PrEP, violates the plaintiffs’ religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit objected to the purchase of health insurance that provided coverage for those medications, the HPV vaccine, birth control, and sexually transmitted disease testing because “the coverage of those services violates their beliefs religious by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use and sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman,” O’Connor wrote.
In September, the judge said the preventive services requirements were unconstitutional, but had not decided whether that applied only to the plaintiffs, to Texans or to the entire country. He now he has decided that it applies throughout the country.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
The Biden administration and more than 20 mostly Democratic-controlled states had urged O’Connor not to issue a sweeping ruling that would eliminate the preventive care coverage requirement altogether.
“Over the past decade, millions of Americans have relied on preventive services provisions to obtain preventive care at no cost, improving not only their own health and well-being, but also overall public health outcomes,” the states argued in a court file.
O’Connor, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, has issued a series of rulings targeting Obamacare in recent years. In 2018, he struck down the 2010 health care law, saying, “The individual mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of congressional tax power and remains impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause, meaning the mandate individual is unconstitutional.”
The Supreme Court, however, finally ruled in favor of the law, rejecting the efforts of the Republican Party to dismantle it.
Associated Press contributed.