An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but it’s not worth much to employers who claim their extreme religious beliefs exempt them from provisions of the Affordable Care Act, nor to the judge who agreed with them in a new ruling.
There is one aspect of the ruling that will have employees breathing a sigh of relief — the contraceptive mandate was broadly upheld.
Two employers filed suit, citing their religious beliefs and explaining that providing preventative care, including medications to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, as well as screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, and certain medications used in pregnancy.
Four individuals are also part of the suit, arguing that if they purchase insurance that covers these medications and procedures, they are made “complicit” in other clients’ choices they consider sinful, including extramarital sex, drug use, and same-sex intimacy.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor agreed on many of these claims, and ruled that insurance providers do not have to comply with rules requiring them to provide these services in their insurance plans — with the exception of contraceptives.
The ruling could still affect some screenings and medications taken during pregnancy, though.
While plaintiffs argue that drug use is one of the activities they don’t condone, behavioral counseling to prevent or treat drug abuse is among the treatments they want eliminated.
They also refuse to be ‘complicit’ in the provision of PrEP, a medication that helps reduce the risk of contracting HIV, largely on the grounds that their own families don’t need it. From the ruling:
“[Four plaintiffs] want 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. They say neither they nor their families require such preventive care.”
One plaintiff specifically argues that his insurance coverage should not be required to cover certain treatments or medications, because his wife is “past her childbearing years” and he and his family (he argues) don’t “engage in the behaviors” that would result in the need for these preventative measures.
However, the judge dismisses all such claims regarding birth control medications easily:
“Having considered the parties’ briefing and applicable law on those issues, and in light of its prior decision on the merits in favor of Defendants, the Court DISMISSES with prejudice the religious objector Plaintiffs’, including Braidwood Management Inc.’s, contraceptive mandate claim. The non-religious objector Plaintiffs’ contraceptive mandate claim is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
The Biden Administration is expected to appeal the ruling, and in the meantime, most insurance clients can likely expect their coverage to stay the same through the end of the year, at least, according to Forbes.
100 million Americans use the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services including cancer screenings, contraception, prenatal care and anti-HIV meds — but 1 radical Republican judge ruled to take that care away.
This will not stand — we’ll keep fighting to protect your care! -NP
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) March 30, 2023
If an appeal is filed, it’s possible that there will be a stay of this ruling, extending the current coverage rules until the appeal is complete.
The full ruling can be read here.