Media representatives ask questions of US President Joe Biden as he leaves the White House in Washington, United States, March 31.
Jonathan Ernest | Reuters
The Biden administration on Friday appealed a Texas federal judge’s decision to remove free Obamacare coverage of preventive health services ranging from screening for certain types of cancer and diabetes to drugs used to prevent HIV.
US Judge Reed O’Connor of the US Northern District Court of Texas on Thursday struck down an Obamacare mandate that requires most private insurance plans to cover certain types of healthcare, an independent panel of experts called the Preventive Services Task Force recommended.
“Prevention is an essential part of healthcare: it saves lives, saves families money and improves the health of our country,” said Kamara Jones, a spokeswoman for the health and human services, Thursday night after the judge’s ruling. “Actions that remove these decades-old protections are backward and wrong.”
The case is now before the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A majority of the judges on this court were appointed by Republican presidents.
HHS estimates that 150 million Americans have benefited from the free health screenings, consultations, medications and other forms of health care that prevent diseases as part of Obamacare’s requirements.
The judge’s ruling has created confusion about which retirement benefits are still covered and which are not, due to the way the court order was written. But Lawrence Gostin, a health law expert at Georgetown University, said the ruling clearly jeopardizes the free coverage of the vast majority of the preventive services listed below.
Here’s a list of preventive healthcare services to which the judge’s ruling is likely to apply
Gostin said most private insurance plans will likely continue to cover these benefits, but will charge co-payments and deductibles. Working-class Americans are being hit the hardest and may forgo the health care they need because they can’t afford the cost, Gostin said.
O’Connor ruled that Obamacare cannot mandate the free health care coverage recommended by the Preventive Services Task Force because the organization’s members were illegally appointed. O’Connor tried to take down Obamacare outright in 2018, but the Supreme Court disagreed with him.
Two business owners and several individuals sued the US in March 2020 over the preventive health services mandate, arguing that purchasing insurance that covers drugs to prevent HIV infection violated their Christian religious beliefs.
Plaintiffs alleged in their lawsuit that the mandate to cover drugs used to prevent HIV “forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity and injecting drug use.”
They also argued that the Preventive Services Task Force was unconstitutionally appointed and therefore its recommendations could not serve as the basis for an Obamacare mandate.
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