A Texas federal judge Wednesday ruled that private employers do not have to provide health insurance coverage for HIV prevention drugs (PrEP drugs) and other preventative care if it violates their religious rights. The ruling means private employers can now offer health insurance plans that exclude or limits coverage of PrEP drugs, contraception, the HPV vaccine, and screenings and behavioral counseling for STDs and drug use.
US District Judge Reed O’Connor found that the government defendants failed to show “a compelling interest in forcing private, religious corporations to cover PrEP drugs with no cost-sharing and no religious exemptions.” At issue in the lawsuit was the preventative-care mandate, which requires most private employers’ health insurance plans to cover certain preventative care under the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act.
Six individuals and two businesses challenged the legality of the preventative-care mandate in the US District Court of the Northern District of Texas. Braidwood Management, a Christian for-profit corporation and one of the plaintiffs in the case, alleged that the preventative-care mandate violated the business’s religious beliefs “by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.” Braidwood Management, along with the other plaintiffs, argued that they suffered religious and economic injuries by being forced to pay for insurance coverage they neither supported nor wanted.
O’Connor agreed with the Braidwood Management, stating that the government’s arguments were unpersuasive. The court stated the government inappropriately argued the correctness of the Braidwood Management’s beliefs when they should have focused on the sincerity of the beliefs.