U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor has ruled that the Affordable Care Act's mandate for free coverage of HIV prevention drugs violates the religious freedom of a Christian-owned company, Bloomberg reports.
Braidwood Management Inc. had challenged the provision requiring it to cover Truvada and Descovy, a pair of widely-used pre-exposure prophylactic drugs more commonly known as PrEP. Thousands of Americans — especially gay and bisexual men — take PrEP daily as a preventative measure against HIV.
In their initial complaint, the plaintiffs argued that the ACA mandate "forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use." O'Connor ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, claiming the defendants did not show a "compelling interest in forcing private, religious corporations to cover PrEP drugs with no cost-sharing and no religious exemptions."
The suit was led by attorney Jonathan Mitchell, the former Republican solicitor general of Texas who is known for his efforts to restrict abortion access in the state. Mitchell believes that the entire preventive services mandate under the ACA is invalid because those who manage the list are too empowered to not have Senate confirmation, Bloomberg writes.
At this time, it's unclear whether O'Connor's ruling will be nationally endorsed; still, it could have a major impact on access to preventative care and important free health services for Americans. "It's a disappointing decision because it has broader implications for harm for folks that are just trying to work and live and access health care," attorney Shelley Skeen told NBC News.