Texas judge rules employers not required to cover HIV prevention drugs – The Guardian US
Federal judge says employers don’t need to cover PrEP drugs if it violates companies’ religious beliefs
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that employers should not be forced to provide coverage for HIV infection prevention drugs if it violates their owners’ religious beliefs “by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior”.
US district judge Reed O’Connor on Wednesday ruled in favor of Braidwood Management, a Christian-owned company based in Texas, saying it was not required to cover the cost of Truvada and Descovy, two pre-exposure prophylactic drugs also known as PrEP.
The drugs, which are taken every day by hundreds of thousands of Americans, are used to prevent HIV transmission and are made available through company health insurance via provisions for preventive healthcare in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
A lawsuit filed by the conservative former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell on behalf of Braidwood Management against the US Department of Health and Human Services argued that the ACA provision “violated [the plaintiffs’] religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and woman”, in the words of the judge.
Mitchell is also known for designing Texas’s highly restrictive abortion law.
O’Connor ruled in favor of the company.
“Defendants outline a generalized policy to combat the spread of HIV, but they provide no evidence connecting that policy to employers such as Braidwood, nor do they provide evidence distinguishing potential religious exemptions from existing secular exemptions,” O’Connor said in his ruling.
“Thus, Defendants have not carried their burden to show that the PrEP mandate furthers a compelling governmental interest.”
In a Twitter thread, the legal expert Chris Geidner said O’Connor “regularly rules against Democratic administrations and Democrat-backed policies – leading conservative plaintiffs to seek him out to judge their cases. He has ruled against the ACA or ACA-related policies multiple times.”
Geidner added that O’Connor has a track record of “anti-LGBTQ rulings, both as to marriage and Title IX’s sex discrimination ban”.
Eliminating the preventive healthcare provisions of the Affordable Care Act could free “private insurers from the obligation to provide so much basic coverage – again, we’re talking vaccines, pregnancy care, cancer screening and treatment,” Mark Stern, a legal reporter, tweeted.
In 2018, O’Connor issued a ruling that declared the ACA unconstitutional, though the supreme court overruled it and upheld the ACA in 2021.