The Justice Department will seek a court order to halt a recent ruling that struck down Affordable Care Act provisions that required insurers to provide free preventive services, a department spokesperson said Wednesday.
A federal judge in Texas last month overturned the Affordable Care Act requirement that health insurers cover some free preventive care services, such as screenings for cancer and drugs that prevent HIV. The ruling means patients would have to pay for some preventive services that are now free, potentially putting lifesaving tests like cancer screenings out of reach for many, experts said.
The Justice Department will request a stay, meaning the judge's ruling would not immediately go into effect while the case goes through an appeals process.
"For over a decade, the Affordable Care Act has ensured that millions of Americans have access to critical preventative health care," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. "In order to protect Americans who have come to rely on the preventative health care measures at issue, the Department of Justice will request a stay in this case.”
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, struck down the Obamacare provision in late March. O'Connor cited his previous decision on the structure of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which was created under Obamacare and helps determine coverage of preventive services, saying it violates the appointments clause of the Constitution and therefore its related preventive care mandates are unlawful.
O’Connor also said Obamacare’s requirement to cover drugs preventing HIV, known as PrEP, violates the religious rights of plaintiffs under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
O’Connor had ruled against the Affordable Care Act in a 2018 case — a decision that was ultimately overturned.
A report in March from KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that in 2018 about 60% of the 173 million people with private health insurance used at least one of the free preventive services mandated by the ACA.