A federal judge in Texas on Thursday struck down a part of Obamacare that requires insurers to cover cancer screenings and other preventive services for free.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, presiding in Fort Worth, had ruled in September that a mandate requiring coverage of pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV, or PrEP drugs, violated religious freedom.
He also said the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends services that must be covered without cost-sharing, was unconstitutional because it was a volunteer board that isn’t responsive to Congress but issues binding rules.
Thursday’s action blocked the government from enforcing the coverage mandates, reinvigorating the Obamacare wars and signaling that another case against the Affordable Care Act could reach the Supreme Court.
Judge O’Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, previously ruled against Obamacare in a suit that pivoted on Congress zeroing out the individual mandate tax penalty, though the Supreme Court later upheld the 2010 law.
The latest case was brought by Texas individuals and businesses, including Christians who opposed covering HIV drugs, contraception, the HPV vaccine and the screenings and behavioral counseling for sexually transmitted diseases and drug use.
They feared it would be “making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman,” court documents said.
Democrats reacted furiously to the ruling, calling it the action of a rogue judge that will likely be overturned on appeal.
“The decision striking down the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services coverage requirement imperils access to lifesaving care, including mammograms, lung cancer and skin cancer screenings, screenings for pregnant women and newborns, and PrEP. It has no basis in the law, will unnecessarily cause confusion, and will put lives at risk if people are forced to forgo routine screenings and treatment,” Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, said.
Mr. Pallone called on insurers to offer preventive services at no cost while an appeal is pending.
“I will be following up with insurers for their commitments in writing,” he said.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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