Appeals court grants partial stay in ACA preventive care case

The Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) preventive care mandate remains in effect as a federal appeals court mulls a legal challenge to the requirements.

A panel of judges at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay Tuesday that partially halts a lower court ruling striking down the mandate. As part of the order, the Biden administration can continue to enforce the preventive service mandate nationwide aside from against the case's named plaintiffs.

The two businesses at the heart of the case, Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics, as well as the individual plaintiffs agreed Monday to the stay, according to court documents.

The feds urged the court to issue a stay on the ruling while it weighs the appeal. The Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay ahead of a hearing last week about extending the stay.

The initial lawsuit that kicked off this legal back-and-forth centered on required coverage for contraception as well as preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs that prevent HIV infection. Texas Judge Reed O'Connor determined that all recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, beyond just the platintiffs' main complaints, were invalid due to how task force members are appointed.

That ruling would nix requirements for no- or low-cost coverage for birth control and PrEP as well as preventive services for cancer, behavioral health and others. Insurers have largely pledged to continue offering similar coverage despite the ruling.

Experts have said that while they're unlikely to drop this coverage altogether, they could dial up members' cost-sharing in the future should the ruling stand.

During last week's Circuit Court hearing, much of the conversation centered on the individual plaintiffs' standing to bring the case, and the judges appeared skeptical that they would purchase insurance even with the mandate eliminated.

The Biden administration did not oppose individual relief for the plaintiffs but did object to wholesale eliminating the preventive services requirements. Should the ruling be upheld, it could impact coverage for 150 million people in the U.S.

Like similar challenges to the ACA, legal experts expect a lengthy legal battle ahead that could end up at the Supreme Court.