Demonstrators show support for the Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2020. The Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the law can stand. A Texas judge on Thursday ruled its preventive care mandates are unconstitutional. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
March 30 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Texas on Thursday struck down a mandate of the Affordable Care Act that requires private health insurance plans to cover preventive care, including for HIV and screenings for cancer and mental health.
District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth ruled in favor of a group of Christian businesses that had argued that the preventive-care mandate violates their religious freedom because it includes coverage of pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs that prevent HIV infection.
O'Connor said the businesses had standing because "compulsory coverage for those services violates their religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman."
The services at risk include mammograms for breast cancer among women ages 50 to 74, as well as screenings for colon, cervical and lung cancer, sexually transmitted infections and Type 2 diabetes.
The same businesses also sought to overturn a federal mandate that ACA plans must cover birth control with no out-of-pocket costs. O'Connor ruled against those claims.
The judge ruled in 2018 that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, was unconstitutional for its individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that ruling in 2021.
The latest case was brought by John Kelley, a Christian dentist, and Braidwood Management, an organization run by conservative Texas activist Steven Hotze.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., sharply criticized Thursday's decision.
"I am also calling on all healthcare insurers to commit to continuing to cover all preventive services without cost-sharing while this case is litigated and until final disposition of the lawsuit," Pallone said, according to Politico.
The Biden administration is likely to appeal.