US Judge: No PrEP, contraception, cancer screening under ACA

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor (Screenshot/YouTube U.S. Courts)

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled March 29 that employers in the United States cannot be forced to cover specified preventive health care services under the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling means that more than 150 million Americans on employer-sponsored health plans will lose some cost-free coverage for immunizations, contraception, cancer screenings and the HIV preventative PrEP.

O’Connor’s ruling struck down the recommendations that have been issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force regarding the preventive care treatments provisions required by the ACA directing insurers provide at no cost to the patient.

Last September he had ruled that ACA’s PrEP mandate unlawful, this was the ACA requirement that insurers and employers offer plans that cover HIV-prevention measures such as PrEP for free.  Reed cited that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” Thursday’s ruling was in follow-up in a broader context.

Axios noted: Under the ACA, most health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing for people aged 15-65 and HIV PrEP for adults who are at high risk of getting HIV.

The ruling stemmed from a case brought by six individuals and two Christian-owned businesses who argued that they should not be mandated to offer coverage of HIV PrEP because they did not want to encourage “homosexual behavior.”

According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are some services that will continue to be available at no charge under O’Connor’s ruling. These include vaccinations immunizations for the flu, hepatitis, measles, shingles and chickenpox although excluding COVID-19 vaccines, well-woman and well-child visits, and screenings for heart disease, cervical cancer, diabetes and breast cancer.

CNN reported that certain free preventive services for children, such as autism and vision screenings and well-baby visits, and for women, such as mammograms, well-woman visits and breastfeeding support programs will continue to be covered.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment. It is expected that the Biden Administration will appeal.

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