Attorneys near agreement on ACA preventive care mandates


Attorneys told a federal appeals court Friday they are close to an agreement that could temporarily maintain government requirements that health insurance plans include coverage of HIV-preventing drugs, cancer screenings and other preventive care while a court battle over the mandates plays out.

An agreement could be ready to present to the court by Tuesday, attorneys for opponents of the mandates and the Biden administration, which is defending the mandates, said in a brief report filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

In March, US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled that some of the preventive care requirements under former President Barack Obama’s 13-year-old health care law are unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit blocked the order from having an immediate effect last month. On Tuesday, a three judge panel of the appeals court heard arguments on whether the mandates should remain in place while appeals play out in what is likely to be a protracted legal battle. The panel later issued an order for attorneys to report by Friday on the possibility of a temporary compromise.

The Biden administration wants a stay order that would keep the coverage broadly available nationwide for HIV prevention and other preventive care. Attorneys for the six plaintiffs challenging the mandate want to make sure any stay does not include their clients — including a conservative activist and a Christian dentist who oppose coverage for contraception and HIV prevention on religious grounds. The plaintiffs want to be able to deny the coverage without risking penalties, even if O’Connor’s ruling is eventually completely overturned.

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