A federal judge in Texas, who previously ruled to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Thursday requires most insurers to cover preventive services including cancer, diabetes and mental health screenings in the country. revoked a more limited but significant portion of the health laws of
Other free services, including HIV screening, are also affected under a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor that opponents say jeopardize preventive health care for millions of Americans.
Experts warn that insurers are unlikely to stop coverage immediately. The Biden administration was expected to appeal and seek a stay of judgment.
“While this is unlikely to be a fatal blow to the ACA in the way that previous lawsuits have been, it will limit the very popular benefits that tens of millions of people are taking advantage of.” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president of health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The decision comes more than four years after former President George W. Bush’s nominee O’Connor ruled that the entire health care act, also known as “Obamacare,” was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned this ruling.
This time around, O’Connor blocked the requirement that most insurance companies only cover various preventive care, including screening for various types of cancer, while conservative activists in Texas and compulsory birth control and HIV defended plaintiffs, including a Christian dentist who opposed Preventive treatment for religious reasons.
Coverage requirements are determined by the recommendations of the volunteer U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. O’Connor ruled that the implementation of the recommendations was “illegal” and violated the Constitution’s appointment clause, which governs how government officials are appointed.
Dr. Michael Barry, chairman of the federal task force, said in a post-judgment statement that low-income people were able to get the services they needed because the law had expanded care over the past decade.
“Fundamentally, people across the country deserve the opportunity to receive these vital preventative services that have been proven to help them live longer, healthier lives,” Barry said.
White House spokeswoman Carine Jean-Pierre said the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services were reviewing the ruling, but the case represented “another attack on health care legislation that survived 13 years in force. ‘ multiple legal challenges.
The Biden administration has previously told the court that the outcome of the lawsuit “could be an extraordinary upheaval for the nation’s public health system.” More than 20 states, mostly controlled by Democrats, had called on O’Connor to oppose a sweeping ruling that would completely eliminate the requirement to apply for preventive care.
The ruling applies to recommendations made by the task force after the Affordable Care Act was enacted in March 2010. Some of the country’s largest medical groups have opposed the lawsuits, warning that insurers could in the future make patients pay for screenings that are now fully covered.
Levitt said that once O’Connor’s ruling becomes effective, insurers are likely to consider changing coverage from the next calendar year because existing policies are already in effect.
While the ruling affects a wide range of preventive care, it does not wipe out all preventive screening coverage. For example, experts said the decision does not overrule the coverage of preventive women’s health services approved outside the task force.
Some cancer screenings approved before 2010, such as cervical and colorectal cancer screening, will not be impacted, said Alina Sarganikov, senior vice president and director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Foundation. said Mr. But she said recently approved lung and skin cancer screenings could be affected.
In September, O’Connor ruled that mandating coverage for an HIV preventive treatment known as PrEP, taken daily to prevent infection, violated plaintiffs’ religious beliefs. It ruled that a federal task force recommending coverage for preventive treatments is unconstitutional, undermining the broader system of determining which preventive medicines are covered under the law.
Religious opposition from employers has been a roadblock to past challenges to former President Barack Obama’s health care laws, including over-contraception.
The lawsuit is one of conservative attempts to strip the Affordable Care Act, or repeal it entirely, since it was signed into law in 2010. This was the harshest until the Supreme Court overturned her Roe v. Wade judgment in his June, allowing states to ban the proceedings.