HealthDay News — Hundreds of thousands of Americans take medications intended to prevent infection with HIV, but a federal judge in Texas ruled Wednesday that a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires free coverage of the drugs violates the religious beliefs of a Christian-owned company.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor made the ruling Wednesday about Truvada and Descovy, NBC News reported. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Jonathon Mitchell, former Texas solicitor general and conservative activist, who filed it on behalf of the company Braidwood Management Inc.
“Defendants do not show a compelling interest in forcing private, religious corporations to cover PrEP [preexposure prophylaxis] drugs with no cost-sharing and no religious exemptions,” O’Connor ruled.
Reaction to the decision was swift. “This ruling is yet one more instance of unacceptable interference in scientific, evidence-based health care practices that must remain within the sanctity of the provider-patient relationship,” Marwan Haddad, M.D., chair of the HIV Medicine Association, said in a statement. “Denying access to PrEP threatens the health of the more than 1.2 million Americans who could benefit from this potentially lifesaving intervention. Religious refusal laws allowing the personal beliefs of employers or health care providers to dictate access to prevention, care, and treatment services are discriminatory and dangerous. These laws ultimately hurt everyone.”
Most insurers were required to cover PrEP starting in January 2021 after it received an “A rating” by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2019, NBC News reported. Not all insurers are following that policy, which concerns some public health experts.