Federal Judge Strikes Down Critical ObamaCare Requirement, Calls it ‘Unlawful’

A judge in Texas who previously ruled that ObamaCare is unconstitutional struck down a limited but critical part of the law on Thursday in a decision the Biden administration says could upset the healthcare system in the U.S. 

Four years ago, the same judge, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, ruled that ObamaCare, known officially as the Affordable Care Act, was unconstitutional in response to a challenge from 19 states led by Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the decision. 

Now, O’Connor has ruled against the law in a case involving a Christian dentist and a conservative activist in Texas who claim mandatory coverage for an HIV prevention treatment and contraception violates their religious conscience. 

Judge O’Connor blocked the government’s requirement that most insurers covered particular preventative care and wrote in his opinion that recommendations by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force on preventive care were “unlawful.”

The Biden administration argued in court filings that blocking the recommendations “could create extraordinary upheaval in the United States’ public health system.” It is expected to file an appeal in O’Connor’s ruling.

In September, O’Connor ruled that PrEP, which required coverage of HIV treatment to prevent infection, violated the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs. The decision also undercut the comprehensive system determining which preventative drugs are covered in the United States. It stated that a federal task force recommending preventive care and treatment coverage is unconstitutional. 

The case is the latest of several challenges to the legality of ObamaCare

ObamaCare has previously faced numerous challenges on religious grounds, including a lawsuit by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a body of Catholic nuns who objected to providing insurance coverage for its employees’ contraception. In 2020, the Supreme Court upheld efforts of the Trump administration to extend exemptions to ObamaCare’s insurance requirements that allow groups that are religiously affiliated along with some for-profit companies to opt out of the condition. 

The administration of Joe Biden, along with more than 20 states, mostly Democrat-controlled, had urged O’Connor against making a sweeping ruling that would eliminate the preventative care requirement in its entirety.

“Over the last decade, millions of Americans have relied on the preventative services provisions to obtain no-cost preventative care, improving not only their health and welfare but public health outcomes more broadly,” argued the states in a court filing.

The lawsuit is the most recent attempt to chip away at the legality of ObamaCare since the law was enacted in 2010. The leading attorney on the suit is John F. Mitchell, who invented the novel reinforcement mechanism of Texas’ “fetal heartbeat” ban on abortion. It stood as one of the strongest pro-life laws in the U.S. before the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, which permitted states to ban the procedure.