The Biden Administration is wasting no time challenging Thursday's ruling by a conservative federal judge in Texas that eliminates a significant component of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for insurance companies to cover preventative care treatment, including medications for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Department of Justice attorneys representing the Department of Health and Human Services will appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, according to a notice of appeal filed in federal court Friday.
On Thursday, judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas struck down a key component of the ACA.
He wrote a 28-page opinion in Braidwood Management, Inc. v. Xavier Becerra et al., ruling in favor of the plaintiff’s argument that requiring people to buy insurance coverage that includes PrEP violates their religious freedom.
PrEP medications are used by people regardless of sexual orientation to prevent HIV transmission.
Plaintiffs had argued that PrEP coverage violated their freedom of religion because of their Christian faith, saying their beliefs were incongruent with homosexuality. They said they did not believe their companies' insurance plans should have to cover PrEP because gay people use PrEP to prevent HIV transmission, and providing insurance for PrEP “encourages homosexual behavior.”
O’Connor agreed with them.
Additionally, O’Connor ruled that the agency responsible for defining which preventative care treatments and services are required for insurance carriers to cover was unconstitutional.
“The President is glad to see the Department of Justice is appealing the judge’s decision, which blocks a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that has ensured free access to preventive health care for 150 million Americans,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “Preventive care saves lives, saves families money, and protects and improves our health. Because of the ACA, millions of Americans have access to free cancer and heart disease screenings. This decision threatens to jeopardize critical care.
Jean-Pierre said that the administration would continue to fight for affordable healthcare regardless of the attacks on the ACA.
A DOJ spokesperson confirmed to The Advocate that the department filed its notice and noted that, "For over a decade, the Affordable Care Act has ensured that millions of Americans have access to critical preventative health care."
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect comments by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and a DOJ spokesperson.