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Federal judge rules employers not necessary to cover HIV PrEP

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday ruled that the federal government cannot need a Christian-owned company to cover HIV preventative medication since it violates their religious rights under federal law.

Why it matters: HIV PrEP that is a lot more than 90% effective in avoiding the transmission of HIV is preferred for adults that are at risky to getting HIV, which include men who’ve sex with other men.

  • The plaintiffs in the event six individuals and two Christian-owned businesses, Braidwood Management and Kelley Orthodontics had argued they shouldn’t be mandated to provide coverage of HIV PrEP since they did not desire to encourage “homosexual behavior.”

Context: Beneath the Affordable Care Act, most medical health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing for folks aged 15-65 and HIV PrEP for adults that are at risky to getting HIV.

  • Braidwood, together with the other plaintiffs, had filed case to challenge coverage of Gilead’s Truvada that was the initial approved drug for HIV prevention in uninfected adults and Descovy.

Driving the news headlines: District Judge Reed O’Connor said that the Department of Health insurance and Human Services didn’t provide any “compelling” evidence to argue that “private, religious corporations” ought to be necessary to cover HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, often called PrEP, “without cost-sharing no religious exemptions.”

  • O’Connor said HHS was struggling to show that the ACA’s requirement of HIV PrEP to be fully included in insurance “furthers a compelling governmental interest.

Details: O’Connor ruled that ACA’s PrEP mandate violated Braidwood’s rights beneath the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that “means that interests in religious freedom are protected.”

  • Regulations is often found in legal cases challenging abortion and contraception access, in addition to healthcare for transgender people.
  • O’Connor said that PrEP specifically violates Braidword’s religious rights.

What’s next: O’Connor is requesting that both defendants and plaintiffs “file supplemental briefing” by Friday prior to making your final decision on whether PrEP violates RFRA all together, and also other issues in the lawsuit.

  • When asked for comment concerning the ruling, an HHS spokesperson told Axios that the department “continues to work to make sure that people can access healthcare, clear of discrimination.”

Editor’s note: This short article has been updated with new details throughout.

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