President Joe Biden's administration moved quickly Friday to appeal Thursday's ruling by a Texas federal judge striking down a key provision of former President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act legislation mandating insurers provide free preventive care services.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. Northern District Court of Texas ruled Thursday that preventive care, including cancer and diabetes screening, as well as HIV prevention drugs, could not be mandated for insurance companies to provide to insureds for free, CNBC reported.
"Preventive care is an essential part of healthcare: It saves lives, saves families money, and improves our nation's health,” CNBC reported Kamara Jones, a Health and Human Services spokesperson, saying on Thursday evening after the judge's ruling. "Actions that strip away this decade-old protection are backwards and wrong."
The case will now go before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a majority of Republican-appointed justices.
HHS estimated that 150 million Americans benefited from the free screenings and preventive care, according to the report.
Georgetown University health law expert Lawrence Gostin told CNBC that insurance companies will likely continue to provide the services, but charge a co-pay or include them in a patient's deductible before coverage kicks in.
Plaintiffs in the 2020 litigation challenging the provision claimed that mandating the coverage for preventive care violated certain employers' religious beliefs and "forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use," according to the report.
"This is not the potential fatal blow to the ACA like previous court cases, but it would limit a very popular benefit that tens of millions of people use," Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Associated Press Thursday following the judge's ruling.
According to that report, George W. Bush appointee O'Connor ruled that the healthcare law, commonly known as "Obamacare," was unconstitutional four years earlier, but his ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In his Thursday ruling, O'Connor took issue with the formation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force during the Obama era that formulated the mandate, calling the recommendations it made "unlawful" as a violation of the Constitution Appointment Clause, according to the report.
The report said the task force recommendations were made in 2010 as the ACA was being enacted, and that changes to the current care provisions will likely take effect in the next calendar year because contracts for the current year are already in place.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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