A federal judge on Thursday struck down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing free coverage of a wide range of preventive care services including cancer screenings and mental health checks.
District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, the author of several previous rulings against Obamacare, sided with a group of conservative employers in Texas who argued that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that made those requirements has been acting unconstitutionally since 2010 and blocking enforcement of the rules nationwide.
O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, also ruled that the requirement to cover the HIV prevention drug PrEP violated the religious rights of the employers and could not be enforced against them.
The individuals had standing to sue, O’Connor wrote, because “compulsory coverage for those services violates their religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.”
O’Connor had already sided with the challengers on these points back in September, but had not said whether his ruling would apply only to the people suing, to everyone in Texas, or nationwide, and requested a further briefing. O’Connor ultimately granted the pleas for a “universal” ruling, upending the national insurance market.
The Biden administration is expected to appeal.
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