Richard H. Hughes, IV, Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, was quoted in the Washington Blade, in “Lawsuit Against Affordable Care Act Targets PrEP,” by Lou Chibbaro Jr.

Following is an excerpt:

More than two dozen HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations and LGBTQ supportive health centers have filed two separate friend-of-the-court or amicus legal briefs supporting the appeal of a Texas court decision earlier this year that the advocacy groups say would greatly reduce health insurance coverage of the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

The two amicus briefs filed by the advocacy organizations in June express strong support for the Biden administration’s appeal of a March 30, 2023, ruling by Judge Reed O’Connor for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. O’Connor’s ruling struck down a provision of the U.S. Affordable Care Act that requires insurers to provide full coverage of preventive care services without co-pay or cost-sharing fees, including coverage for PrEP. …

In response to the appeal of the District court decision filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued an administrative stay placing the lower court ruling on hold while the appeal process moves forward.

The case is called Braidwood Management Inc. et. al v. Becerra. Court records show that Braidwood, a management services company described as Christian owned, Kelley Orthodontics, also described as Christian owned, and six individuals in Texas jointly filed the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act in September 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, whose name appears on the case, is among the federal officials in charge of administering the Affordable Care Act. The law is sometimes referred to as “Obama Care” after former President Barack Obama who initiated the expansive healthcare legislation that was passed by Congress.

The Braidwood company and the other plaintiffs that filed the lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act provision related to preventive care argue in court filings that forcing them to provide financial coverage to PrEP, among other things, is unconstitutional and violates their religious rights under the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act. …

The publication, which analyzed the court filings in the case, says the plaintiffs also contend that the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services provision violates the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which they argue requires government officials making important health care decisions under the Affordable Care Act be nominated to office by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

In their lawsuit challenging the preventive services provision, the plaintiffs note that under the Affordable Care Act, decisions on how to define preventive services that must be covered under the act are now made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, whose members are not confirmed by the Senate.

The U.S. government appeal of the Texas District court ruling, and the amicus briefs filed by the AIDS advocacy organizations and other groups, including D.C. ‘s Whitman-Walker Health and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, strongly dispute the plaintiff’s assertions. …

“We sought to emphasize that purchasing insurance that includes coverage of PrEP for HIV in no way burdens the ability of plaintiffs to exercise their religion,” said Richard Hughes IV, the lead attorney for the joint amicus filing by the 25 advocacy groups. “In fact, we suggest to the court that granting exemptions for PrEP coverage would have far-reaching and absurd consequences for our society,” Hughes said.

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