Judge Rules HIV Drugs Mandatory Under Insurance Plan Violating Employer’s Religious Rights

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A Texas federal judge ruled Wednesday in favor of a Christian business owner who said being forced to provide preventative health care such as HIV drugs under the his employees’ health insurance violated his religious rights.

Steven Hotze, who runs Braidwood Management, a for-profit Christian company, sued the Biden administration, arguing that the Affordable Care Act mandates to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and “PrEP drugs,” that prevent the virus that causes AIDS, violated his religious beliefs.

He insures about 70 employees and wants to exclude those particular preventive care options from the company’s health plan, citing biblical and moral injunctions against extramarital sex, drug abuse and same-sex activity. Being required to cover PrEP drugs in the company’s self-insurance plan “makes it complicit in these behaviors,” the suit argued.

Braidwood faces monetary penalties if he fails to provide the mandatory coverage under the ACA.

The judge in his decision on Wednesday said the federal government had shown no compelling reason to override Mr. Hotze’s religious reservations.

The government “inappropriately challenges the accuracy of Hotze’s beliefs, when courts can only test the sincerity of those beliefs,” wrote George W. Bush-appointed Judge Reed O’Connor.

Other plaintiffs objecting to certain preventive care on religious grounds were also part of the lawsuit, although the judge requested more information from the parties before ruling on their objections.

Judge O’Connor had already been on notice when he declared the individual mandate to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in 2018 when Congress amended the tax provisions of the law, approving the arguments conservatives that the whole law could no longer be enforced on the basis of Congress. taxing powers.

The Supreme Court, however, overturned that decision in 2021, saying parties challenging the law did not have enough prejudice or standing to fight the legal battle.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to say whether he would appeal Judge O’Connor’s ruling. The case is Braidwood Management Inc. et al. vs. Xavier Becerra et al.

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