Federal appeals court grants stay in ACA preventive care ruling

A federal appeals court has issued a stay on a lower court ruling that struck down free preventive care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Fifth Circuit Court ruled Monday in favor of an administrative stay while it reviews the case. Texas Judge Reed O'Connor ruled in March that the federal government could not enforce preventive care mandates under the ACA, which require payers to cover a slew of services at no cost.

The initial lawsuit centered on birth control and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs, which prevent HIV infections. O'Connor ruled last fall that requiring Christian-owned companies to cover these products violated their religious rights, and the March ruling aims to eliminate preventive care mandates broadly.

O'Connor has heard multiple challenges to the ACA and issued a controversial 2018 ruling that deemed the entire law unconstitutional without an individual mandate penalty. This was later reversed by the Supreme Court.

The fight over preventive care also seems likely for a lengthy legal fight that could also make its way to SCOTUS. Major industry groups including the American Medical Association and AHIP, the insurance industry lobbying group, have decried the decision.

As the case winds its way through the courts, payer groups vowed to continue covering key preventive care services at no cost.

"As we review the decision and its potential impact with regard to preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, we want to be clear: Americans should have peace of mind there will be no immediate disruption in care or coverage," AHIP CEO Matt Eyles said.