Physicians and Health Care Professionals Urge Court to Keep the ACA’s Preventive Care Requirements in Place
On October 6, 2023, we filed a brief in the case of Braidwood Management v. Becerra on behalf of a coalition of 22 organizations representing physicians and health care professionals with expertise in preventive and specialty care, urging the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to keep the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) preventive care requirements in place. The brief highlights the importance of the preventive services recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that the ACA requires insurers to cover without cost-sharing. The organizations who submitted the brief to the Fifth Circuit include the: American Medical Association, Aerospace Medical Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American College of Physicians, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Gastroenterological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, American Society of Nephrology, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ+ Equality, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, Renal Physicians Association, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Society of Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgeons, Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society, and American Academy of Family Physicians.
The Affordable Care Act has been challenged in court by special interests a number of times since its enactment in 2010. In March, Judge Reed O’Connor of the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in Braidwood Management v. Becerra that it was unconstitutional to require the vast majority of the country’s health plans to cover the no-cost preventive services recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. The government appealed that ruling and requested that the status quo be restored as the appeal played out. Following oral argument on the government’s request, the parties reached an agreement that would make preventive care accessible, without additional costs to the patients, while the appeal is pending.
The legal challenge was brought by several businesses and individuals represented by a far-right advocate seeking to strike down the ACA’s requirement that most insurance plans cover, at no additional cost to the patient, certain preventive services, including screenings for breast and lung cancer, vaccines, contraception and well visits. Those plaintiffs have cross appealed Judge O’Connor’s decision that the ACA can permissibly require health plans to cover, without cost sharing, the services recommended by ACIP and HRSA.
Because of the ACA, approximately 76 million individuals gained access to preventive care without cost-sharing and approximately 233 million individuals are currently enrolled in health plans that must cover preventive services without cost-sharing.
The October brief, addressing that cross appeal, is the fourth that Democracy Forward has filed on behalf of organizations representing physicians and medical professionals in this case.
Gutting the ACA’s preventive care requirements will lead many patients of the physicians Democracy Forward is representing, including many of the most vulnerable Americans, to turn down necessary services because of the very financial barriers the ACA seeks to remove. The research on preventive services is clear: no-cost preventive care – ranging from colonoscopies to mammograms – saves lives, saves money, improves health outcomes, and enables healthier lifestyles. Studies show that the ACA reduced racial disparities in the utilization of the required services, and that “those who experience the greatest financial barriers to care appear to benefit the most from cost-sharing elimination.” Studies have found that the ACA’s enactment increased the rate of cancer screenings, increased the use of general wellness services, and improved utilization and health outcomes among populations that have been subjected to discrimination.