Christian group wins case on Obamacare requirement on HIV prevention drugs

It is unclear whether judge's ruling affects only the Texas employers involved in the case.

Updated: September 7, 2022 - 3:34pm

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A Texas federal judge sided Wednesday with a group of Christian employers in the state who argued that the Affordable Care Act's requirement to offer insurance plans covering HIV prevention drugs, known as PrEP, violates their religious freedom.

The group argues that covering those services "violates their religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman," said federal district court Judge Reed O’Connor, who is presiding over the case.

The ruling by O’Connor, a Bush appointee, was met with immediate opposition from the liberal healthcare nonprofit Protect Our Care, which is raising concerns about it setting a precedent for other "guaranteed" services under the law. 

The group says the ruling "invalidated all of the benefits covered under the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, including lifesaving colorectal and other cancer screenings, depression screenings, hypertension screenings, and access to PrEP." The group accused Judge O'Connor of threatening to "eliminate all of the guaranteed preventive services under the ACA."

It is unclear whether O'Connor's ruling affects only the plaintiffs, everyone in Texas or all Americans under the program. It is also uncertain whether the Affordable Care Act requirements will immediately stop or be allowed to continue while litigation occurs. The judge requested additional briefs from both parties by Friday.

The Texas Christian group wants "the option to purchase health insurance that excludes or limits coverage of PrEP drugs, contraception, the HPV vaccine, and the screenings and behavioral counseling for STDs and drug use," O'Connor also wrote. 

The judge also said that upon examining the Affordable Care Act's broader preventive services mandate members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the group that decides what must be covered, are "unconstitutionally appointed."