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Federal Judge Blocks Obamacare Mandate For HIV Drugs, Other Preventive Services

A federal judge has blocked enforcement of an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring employers to provide health plans that pay for certain preventative care services, including a drug used to prevent HIV.

Six individuals and two Christian-owned businesses initially sued in 2020, shortly after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (PSTF) issued new guidance mandating that company insurance plans cover pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug used to prevent HIV. On Thursday, Northern District of Texas Judge Reed O’Connor blocked the enforcement of recommendations made by the PSTF, which he found had been “unconstitutionally appointed” in violation of the Appointments Clause.

Plaintiffs object to the PrEP because they believe it encourages “homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use,” according to the lawsuit. The mandate, they argue, forces religious employers to “subsidize these behaviors.”

O’Connor’s sided with the plaintiffs on both religious freedom and constitutional grounds, agreeing that the requirement violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and that the preventative care recommendations are unconstitutional because they were supplied by a task force that was not directly appointed by the president. He previously ruled partially in the plaintiffs’ favor in September but waited to issue an injunction until the parties filed additional briefs.

“[The] ACA forces these Plaintiffs to choose between purchasing health insurance that violates their religious beliefs and foregoing conventional health insurance altogether,” O’Connor wrote in his opinion. “It is undisputed that putting individuals to this choice imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise.”

Other PSTF-recommended services impacted by the block include diabetes screening, breast cancer screening, depression screening, and more.

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