NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court in New Orleans prepared to hear arguments Tuesday on whether insurers can be required to cover preventive health care including HIV prevention, diabetes, mental health and some cancer screenings without charging patients out-of-pocket fees under former President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
In the latest legal skirmish over the law that took effect 13 years ago, the Biden administration is appealing a Texas-based federal judge's ruling that would eliminate the mandate on insurers to provide no-extra-cost coverage for many types of preventive care.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the lower court ruling while it prepared to receive briefs and hear arguments. At issue in Tuesday afternoon's hearing before three 5th Circuit judges is whether patients should continue to have the coverage while appeals play out. An immediate ruling was not expected.
The March ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor affected requirements for coverage driven by recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. O'Connor ruled that because the task force is made up of volunteers, enforcing its recommendations violates the Constitution's Appointment Clause, which lays out how government officials can be appointed.
Not all preventive care is affected under the judge's ruling. An analysis by the nonprofit KFF foundation found that some screenings, including mammography and cervical cancer screening, would still be covered without out-of-pocket costs because the task force recommended them before the health care law was enacted in March 2010.
O'Connor, a nominee of former President George W. Bush, is the same judge who ruled more than four years ago that the entire Obama health care law was unconstitutional. That ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Those suing the federal government in this case include a conservative activist and a Christian dentist who oppose coverage for contraception and HIV prevention on religious grounds. The appellate judges are Edith Brown Clement and Leslie Southwick, who were also nominated by Bush; and Stephen Higginson, nominated by Obama.