The Latest ACA Ruling Is Worse Than You Think

by | Apr 4, 2023 | Courts, Health Care

Last week headlines across the nation touted a devastating new ruling regarding preventive healthcare from a Texas judge. Indeed, the ruling was bad, and unfortunately it could get even worse.

In 2020, several plaintiffs filed a lawsuit then known as Kelley vs. The United States of America seeking to end a provision within the Affordable Care Act which requires health insurers to provide certain preventive healthcare services like contraception, cancer screenings, and drugs that prevent HIV. Jonathan Mitchell, the architect of the six-week abortion ban in Texas, was the primary lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case that would become Kelley vs. Becerra.

Arguments were heard in the case last year in front of U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor. In 2018, O’Connor ruled on behalf of Texas and other Republican-led states that the individual mandate of the ACA was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ultimately overruled O’Connor’s judgment, but his hostility towards the ACA is notable.

Several of the plaintiffs in the latest Kelley lawsuit maintained that the current preventive requirements of the ACA violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The lawsuit specifically stated that Christian plaintiffs should not be forced to purchase health plans that subsidize “abortifacient contraception or PrEP drugs that encourage and facilitate homosexual behavior.”

Last week, O’Connor unveiled his ruling, overturning the preventive healthcare clause (the contraception mandate remains intact) immediately. While experts note that very few people will be impacted immediately by the nature of how health plans are almost always constructed on yearly intervals, O’Connor’s ruling could eventually find its way back to the Supreme Court. And then all bets are off, even for the contraception mandate. Many cancer screenings and neonatal screenings could also be impacted.

In short, O’Connor’s decree could be a divisive blow in a country and state where healthcare is already a disaster. Republican lawmakers who claim to be “pro-life” should be up in arms, but they’ve been mum. With their track record on healthcare, it’s not a surprise.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services issued a report showing a physician shortage in Texas that is expected to get even worse. Rural hospitals are closing left and right. And Texas is now just one of ten states to not expand Medicaid. It’s no wonder that Texas comes in at the bottom half of life expectancy in the United States.

The Biden Administration has appealed the ruling and requested a stay. The Fifth Circuit, however, is notoriously conservative.

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A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).

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