A federal judge in Texas has struck down a provision in the Affordable Care Act that required insurance providers to cover certain HIV prevention drugs for free. Judge Reed O'Connor sided with Braidwood Management Inc., ruling that forcing employers to pay for the coverage violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The plaintiffs, led by attorney Jonathan Mitchell, argued that the requirement to cover PrEP drugs "forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use."
There are currently two PrEP drugs approved by Food and Drug Administration, Truvada and Descovy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that those drugs can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by 99%.
PrEP drugs can cost up to $20,000 without insurance.
O'Connor, who previously struck down the entire Affordable Care Act in 2018, said that the government failed to make a case that the coverage mandate "furthers a compelling governmental interest."
"The government defendants in the suit outline a generalized policy to combat the spread of HIV, but they provide no evidence connecting that policy to employers such as Braidwood," O'Connor wrote. "Thus, defendants have not carried their burden to show that the PrEP mandate furthers a compelling governmental interest."