Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit temporarily paused Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision until a panel could hear oral arguments on whether the stay should be continued during the appeals process.
The Biden administration will argue that keeping the stay in place until the court rules on the merits of the case won’t cause the plaintiffs any harm and that the district court should not have granted relief to groups not party to the lawsuit.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover more than 100 preventive health services recommended by the U.S Preventive Services Task Force. The provision is broadly popular and has been in effect since 2010.
A lawsuit put forward by a group of conservative Texas employers and individuals challenged that requirement, arguing the task force’s members are not appointed by the president or confirmed by the Senate, yet its recommendations are binding.
O’Connor agreed with most of the arguments, and his ruling invalidated the entire task force.
O’Connor also invalidated the law’s requirement that health plans cover HIV treatment. He said the mandate forced the plaintiff, a Christian employer and well-known GOP donor, to pay for insurance that violated his religious beliefs.
O’Connor’s ruling applied nationwide, even though the lawsuit only concerned one company.
Keeping the stay in place would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to continue to mandate the requirement that most insurance companies cover the HIV prevention drug PrEP as well as a range of preventive services like annual physicals, cancer screenings and Pap tests with no cost-sharing for patients.
The administration and public health advocates have warned that striking down the requirement for insurers and employers to cover preventive services without cost-sharing would jeopardize access to needed services for more than 150 million people.