A federal judge on Thursday overturned a portion of the Affordable Care Act that makes preventive services, such as some cancer screenings, free to enrollees, a decision that could affect health insurance policyholders nationwide.
The decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas could open the door for insurers or employers to reinstate copayments for some of those preventive services, although many may be reluctant or unable to do so, at least immediately.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor builds on a September judgment in which he also said the ACA requirement that employers cover preexposure prophylaxis treatment to prevent HIV violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
His ruling is the latest shot in the legal battle over the ACA. “Previous cases threatened the very existence of the law and fundamental protections. This decision does not do that,” said Larry Levitt, KFF executive vice president for health policy. But “it strikes down a portion of the law, albeit a very popular one, that is used by a lot of people.”
It is almost certain to be appealed, possibly by both sides: the conservative groups that brought the case and had hoped the decision would be broader, and the Biden administration, which supports the ACA.
“The stakes are really high,” because the ultimate decision could affect millions of Americans, said Andrew Tw …