Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare Requirement for Free Preventive Care

WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Texas who once declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional far reaching decision on Thursday blocks the Joe Biden administration from implementing a provision of the law that provides certain types of free preventive care to patients, including screening for cancer, depression, diabetes and HIV.

The decision by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas applies nationwide. If it stands, it could have far-reaching implications for millions of Americans, and the 2010 health law could return the United States to the days before Obamacare, when insurers were free to decide who they covered. C will cover preventive services.

Georgetown University health policy expert Lawrence O. Gostin said that, which is in the form of a nationwide prohibition, goes into effect immediately. This would affect a long list of preventive care services, he said, including services such as screening for heart disease, Pap smears and tobacco cessation services.

“It could be that tomorrow, a woman may wake up and find that her mammogram is not covered,” Mr. “I think we forget what it was like before the Affordable Care Act, where we had to pay and it was impossible to have basic primary health care services,” Gostin said.

The Biden administration is likely to appeal the ruling and seek a stay on the injunction. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services are reviewing the decision.

“This case is yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act,” Ms. “Preventive care saves lives, it saves families money and it protects and improves our health,” Jean-Pierre said.

The lead plaintiff in the case is Braidwood Management; Company owner Dr. Steven F. Hotz, a prominent Republican donor and Houston doctor who previously challenged the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiffs argued that a volunteer panel of experts that issues binding recommendations to cover preventive care under the law violates the Constitution because its members are not appointed by the president or confirmed by the Senate. Is.

The plaintiffs also singled out drugs that prevent HIV/AIDS, arguing that the mandate to cover those drugs violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a law that allows the government to burden an individual’s religious freedom. prevents from

“This decision introduces uncertainty into an aspect of the health care system that people have benefited from for nearly a decade: access to preventive care at no extra cost,” said Natalie Davis, chief executive of United States of Care. , a nonpartisan health advocacy group, said in a statement.

M / s. Davis said the ruling means that nearly half of Americans — more than 151 million people — “could lose access to the free preventive services, such as mental health, weight loss measures and various cancer screenings that we all depend on.” ” But she said people who have private coverage secured with annual contracts may not experience the changes until the contracts are renewed.

Advocates of people living with HIV/AIDS were particularly concerned by the decision.

Longtime HIV/AIDS activist James Krellenstein said, “The fact that a judge in Texas decided to put the health care of all Americans at risk for fringe ideological beliefs should really horrify every American. “

Judge O’Connor’s decision was not a surprise. In September, he ruled that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – A volunteer panel of experts that recommends what types of preventive care should be covered under the Affordable Care Act – Violated the Constitution. Thursday’s decision follows on from that earlier decision.

The ruling in September took explicit aim at the HIV drug regimen known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, saying the law’s requirement that it be covered entirely violates Braidwood Management’s religious freedom. Is.

Thursday’s decision comes exactly one week after the 13th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the measure into law. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld large parts of the law, but struck down the requirement that states expand Medicaid. In 2018, Judge O’Connor ruled that the entire law was unconstitutional, but was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

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