Update on Braidwood v. Becerra Verdict

By: Allen Pinn, Coordinator, Policy

On March 30, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor for the Northern District of Texas struck down a pivotal provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The provision requires employers and insurers to provide preventative services at no cost to patients. No cost sharing for preventative services such as cancer screenings, HIV prevention medication, contraception, and immunizations has been one of the most popular and beneficial elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since its inception in 2010. However, this mandate has also drawn opposition for over a decade.

In his decision, Judge O’Connor declared that the requirement for insurers and employers to provide preventative services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) violated religious freedoms protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Braidwood Management Inc., a Christian for-profit corporation, sued the Biden-Harris administration because of their belief that providing HIV preventative treatments went against their religious freedoms and violated the Appointments Clause and the Nondelegation Doctrine of the Constitution. In making this decision, O’Connor immediately blocked the ACA’s requirement that all services recommended by the USPSTF after March 2010 be covered.

While the plaintiff’s argument was driven by coverage of HIV prevention, the ramifications are far wider ranging. This decision will impact millions of Americans living with chronic diseases who access important preventative services every year. Patient groups across the country have voiced their dismay with the decision and the potential consequences it will have on patients’ health.

The verdict did not come as a surprise to patient groups, as O’Connor previously ruled in September that the preventative services mandate was unconstitutional. It is widely expected the Biden-Harris Administration will appeal the decision to a higher court.

The National Health Council will follow new developments as they arise.