Texas federal judge bans mandatory HIV drug coverage

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to cover an HIV prevention drug violates a Texas employer’s religious beliefs and undermines the broader system that determines which preventive drugs are covered in the US.

The ruling was issued by Fort Worth-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who ruled in 2018 that the entire ACA was invalid. Ultimately, the US Supreme Court overturned that decision.

O’Connor’s latest ruling targets a mandate under the law that requires employers to cover an HIV preventative treatment known as PrEP, which is a pill taken daily to prevent infection.

The challenge was filed by a company owned by Stephen Hotze, a Texas conservative activist who is described in the lawsuit as managing Braidwood Management “in accordance with Christian principles and teachings.” It was filed by an architect Texas Abortion Law it was the strictest in the country before the Supreme Court canceled Rowe vs. Wade earlier in June.

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The effect of the decision on the plaintiffs was not immediately clear. But opponents denounced the decision as a threat to patients far beyond Texas.

“The defendants show no credible interest in forcing private religious corporations to cover the cost of PrEP drugs without cost sharing and without religious exemptions,” O’Connor wrote in his ruling.

It also ruled that a federal task force that recommends preventive treatment coverage made up of volunteer members violates an appointment clause in the US Constitution.

The Biden administration is likely to appeal. The US Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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