NORFOLK, Va. — Healthcare advocates in Hampton Roads are raising concerns following a federal judge's ruling on Thursday, which would block insurers from offering certain preventive services at no cost. Those include -- but are not limited to -- some screenings for cancer, the heart, HIV and STDs.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor from Texas struck down a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires most insurers to cover preventive treatments like those aforementioned.
He declared the national law’s coverage requirement unconstitutional because it is driven by recommendations from a panel of experts, consisting of volunteers.
"This is the reason why we have ACA, because we want to have a healthier society," said Gaylene Kanoyton, who founded Celebrate Healthcare LLC.
The company regularly hosts wellness events, pop-up clinics, and health screenings for the Hampton Roads community.
"We do that, but we also always encourage everyone to enroll into a health insurance plan, whether it's Medicaid, whether it's ACA, to do the preventive care," said Kanoyton.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurers are required to cover some screenings, including for multiple types of cancer, the heart, STDs, HIV, diabetes, and mental health.
Kanoyton said those services are crucial for early detection and eliminating some financial worries.
"We don't want people to wait until they get sick and then they go to the emergency room. When they have insurance or when they have affordable care, every year, they're able to get a free physical, mammogram, colonoscopy, all of these things," Kanoyton added.
However, the landscape could change, as O'Connor's ruling Thursday prevents the coverage requirement for those preventive services.
"It's going to be a deterrent to put a cost on these services," Kanoyton said.
The block would apply to treatments recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on or after the ACA's enactment in 2010. O'Connor believes recommendations from a task force panel of experts, all of whom are volunteers, should not be law. He considers enforcement a violation of the Constitution's Appointment Clause.
In terms of next steps, experts say that insurers likely will not stop any coverage right away. This case will likely see an appeal or a pause in the courts.
Additionally, more than four years ago, O'Connor ruled the entirety of ACA unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court ended up overturning his ruling.