Physician groups ask court to uphold ObamaCare’s free preventive services

doctor looking at screens displaying MRI brain scans

A coalition of leading physician groups urged a federal judge in Texas to preserve ObamaCare’s coverage of preventive services, arguing that gutting the requirements would be disastrous for patient care.

In a friend-of-the-court brief led by the American Medical Association, the groups asked Judge Reed O’Connor to exercise discretion and refrain from issuing a nationwide injunction that would invalidate every significant recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ( USPSTF).

“If the Court were to vacate and/or enjoin the Task Force’s recommendations and any efforts to implement them on a nationwide basis, preventive care would be in grave jeopardy for tens of millions of Americans,” the groups wrote.

They urged him to only restrain the provision’s enforcement against a single employer challenging the mandate.

O’Connor in September ruled that ObamaCare’s process for determining what kinds of preventive care must be fully covered by private health insurance is unconstitutional. The ruling puts at risk free screenings for colorectal and other cancers, depression screenings and hypertension screenings, among many others.

O’Connor — who previously struck down the entire ObamaCare law before it was upheld by the Supreme Court — said the USPSTF violated the Constitution because its members are not appointed by the president or confirmed by the Senate, yet its recommendations are binding.

Additional organizations that signed the brief include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the National Medical Association, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers and group health plans to cover more than 100 preventive health services recommended by the task force, with no cost to patients. The groups in the brief said if the requirement is overturned, health plans would likely impose deductibles and co-pays.

Cost sharing will deter patients — particularly those of limited means — from scheduling mammograms, colonoscopies, and other potentially life-saving screening tests, the groups said.

An analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in July found that overturning the preventive services requirement could threaten access to life-saving care for nearly 168 million Americans covered under private employer health plans as well as the ACA’s individual market plans.   

While O’Connor found for the plaintiffs, he postponed ruling on the scope of relief or remedy. Additional briefs from both sides are due in January.

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