Obamacare preventive protection affected by most cancers, diabetes, HIV

A pharmacist writes a prescription in New York City.

Yvonne Hemsey | Hulton Archives | Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday struck down an Obamacare mandate that requires most private health insurance plans to offer free screenings for certain cancers and diabetes, and drugs to prevent HIV.

The ruling by Judge Reed O’Connor of the US Northern District Court of Texas ended coverage of preventive services recommended after March 2010 by a body called the Preventive Services Task Force.

O’Connor, in the same decision, dismissed an argument by plaintiffs to also overturn the mandate requiring Obamacare-compliant plans to cover no-cost birth control.

Under the Affordable Care Act’s mandate, private health insurance plans are required to cover screening for certain types of cancer and diabetes.

The mandate also includes drugs that prevent HIV infection in high-risk groups, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

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O’Connor’s ruling said that coverage requirements based on recommendations made after Obamacare was passed are unlawful because members of the Preventive Services Task Force were not nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The Biden administration is likely to appeal the verdict.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Obamacare regulations, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The judge’s ruling came after two Christian companies and several individuals sued the federal government in 2020.

That lawsuit argues that the precautionary mandate violates their freedom of religion because it includes coverage for drugs that prevent HIV infection.

Plaintiffs allege in their lawsuit that the PrEP mandate “compels religious employers to insure drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity and injecting drug use.”

They also alleged that the Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations were invalid because the process used to select the panel’s members violated the U.S. Constitution’s nomination clause.

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