A federal appeals court will hear arguments Tuesday about whether to continue a pause of a Texas district court’s ruling that struck down an ObamaCare provision requiring insurers to cover preventive services for free.
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 pause should be continued during the appeals process.
Keeping the stay in place until the court rules on the merits of the case would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to continue to mandate 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 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 take 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.
The judge 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.
The administration appealed in April and requested a stay of the nationwide impact of the ruling, arguing the court overstepped its authority by expanding a targeted injunction against a single company to an order that impacts the entire country.
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.
“This Court should enter the requested partial stay of the final judgment pending appeal to preserve the status quo of 13 years and to protect the rights of 150 million Americans who are not parties to this case,” the administration argued in its most recent court filing.
A separate panel will eventually hear arguments on the merits of the case, but there is no hearing date set.
The groups will likely continue to advocate for the conservative-leaning 5th Circuit to overturn the ruling in a battle that could eventually head to the Supreme Court.