Court Battles

Biden administration ‘reviewing’ Texas judge’s decision on HIV drug coverage

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A man takes a free HIV test during the Harlem Pride parade in New York City on June 29, 2019. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration announced Wednesday night it was reviewing a Texas judge’s ruling that declared a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring that health care employers provide HIV preventive drugs unconstitutional.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted the administration was reviewing the decision because the ACA “has been the law of the land for over 10 years.”

“That guarantee is critical to the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans, particularly LGBTQI+ Americans, people of color, pregnant women, and others,” Jean-Pierre wrote in a thread. “The Administration is committed to protecting Americans’ access to free preventive health care and building upon the successes of the Affordable Care Act.”

Judge Reed O’Connor, a notorious Republican and Bush appointee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ruled ObamaCare violated the religious freedom of a Christian company because the 2010 law required that private health insurers and companies provide HIV preventive drugs, known as PrEP, against their beliefs and values.

The ruling was a victory for Christian businesses Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics and a defeat for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The religious Texas employers had argued the ACA violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it forced them to pay for coverage that conflicts with their beliefs, including supporting the use of drugs and “sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.”

The U.S. has approved two PrEP pills, Truvada and Descovy, which are 99 percent effective at preventing the transmission of HIV, a virus that causes the disease AIDS.

The World Health Organization says HIV is still a “major” global public health emergency and has killed more than 40 million people.

The ACA requires that most private health insurers cover the cost of preventive medicine and services at no cost to the patient. To determine which of those are covered under the health care law, advisory groups such as the U.S. Preventive Task Force (USPSTF) make recommendations.

O’Connor also ruled against a broad range of preventive services recommended by USPSTF, saying the task force’s system for deciding which services should be fully covered under the ACA is unconstitutional.

Among those preventive services the judge struck down for coverage under the ACA are colorectal screenings, depression screenings and hypertension screenings.

Tags Affordable Care Act Biden drugs hiv Karine Jean-Pierre ObamaCare preventive services Texas U.S. Preventive Task Force White House
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