Health care providers — at least the sane ones who follow the Hippocratic Oath — are anxiously awaiting a ruling from one Texas judge that could up-end the requirements vis-a-vis the Affordable Care Act which require insurers to cover basic preventative services.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer panel of health experts, is one of three entities that recommends which preventive services must be covered by health plans and Medicaid expansion. The task force’s recommendations have led to no-cost coverage of such services as mammograms and screenings for colon cancer, HIV, cervical cancer, and gestational diabetes.
Six individuals and two companies opposed the ACA requirement that they provide insurance or purchase plans covering certain preventive services. Their lawsuit argued that the services aren’t needed or violate their religious beliefs.
The plaintiffs objected to coverage of contraception, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and drug use, and vaccination against human papillomavirus, the sexually transmitted disease known as HPV, according to the lawsuit. They also objected to coverage of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a medicine that helps prevent HIV infection.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in September ruled the requirement that the Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations be covered by most health plans violates the Constitution because he said the task force must be appointed as officers by the Senate or the president, rather than selected as volunteers. He rejected claims that preventive-care recommendations from the two other entities were improper.
The plaintiffs are asking Judge O’Connor to strike down all preventive-coverage requirements since 2010 that have been recommended by the task force. Both parties have prepared input for the judge before he makes a decision on how broadly the ruling will apply. Judge O’Connor could limit any relief to just the plaintiffs in the case, or he could issue a nationwide injunction that would strike down the requirement that insurers cover preventive services recommended by the task force.
We always knew that extremist religious forces were emboldened by Trump, and this is the latest play they are making to control the bodies and health care of millions of Americans.
We will never know how many lives have been saved by the requirement that insurers cover PREP drugs to prevent new HIV infections.