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Biden admin finalizes deal preserving preventive healthcare coverage during legal challenge

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By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) – The Biden administration on Monday finalized a deal to preserve the federal mandate requiring U.S. health insurers to cover preventive care like cancer screenings and HIV-preventing medication at no extra cost to patients while a legal challenge continues.

The agreement, first disclosed on Friday and now finalized in a filing in the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, leaves the mandate in place nationwide while the administration appeals a court order striking it down.

It does allow Texas-based Braidwood Management, one of a group of businesses and individuals that sued to challenge the mandate, to stop covering pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV and other preventive services for its employees for now. The administration agreed not to take any retroactive enforcement action against the company, which operates an alternative health center, if the mandate is restored on appeal.

The preventive care mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) often referred to as Obamacare, covers services recommended by a federal task force.

Braidwood and the other plaintiffs sued specifically over PrEP for HIV, which they said violated their religious beliefs by encouraging homosexuality and drug use.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas in March blocked the federal government from enforcing the mandate for a much wider range of services, finding that the task force’s role under the ACA violates the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling does not apply to services the task force recommended before the ACA was enacted in 2010, including breast cancer screening.

More than 150 million people were eligible for preventive care free of charge as of 2020 under the ACA, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)

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