Washington, DC — Today, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association Harold Wimmer, Associate Executive Director for Public Affairs and Advocacy of the American Public Health Association Susan Polan, and Andrew Pincus joined Protect Our Care for a virtual press conference to discuss the new amicus briefs ahead of the upcoming stay decision from the Fifth Circuit in Braidwood Management v. Becerra. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s March 30 decision would end ACA’s guaranteed free access to essential preventive services. In 2020 alone, more than 150 million Americans benefited from these preventive services.
Judge O’Connor invalidated all of the benefits covered under the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, including lifesaving lung, breast, and colorectal cancer screenings, anxiety and depression screenings for children and adults, heart disease screenings, intimate partner violence screenings, and access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which can reduce the chance of contracting HIV. The ruling applies nationwide.
“Navigating the health care system is confusing and challenging, and this court case is increasing confusion and uncertainty for patients’ access to preventive services,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO, American Lung Association. “A robust body of research has shown that even modest cost barriers can reduce uptake of preventive services, especially for patients in socioeconomically vulnerable populations. If the lower court’s ruling stands, fewer people will be screened for lung cancer, their cancer will be detected at later stages, and we will lose more people to this devastating disease.”
“These preventive services help people live longer and healthier lives,” said Susan Polan, Associate Executive Director for Public Affairs and Advocacy, American Public Health Association. “The ACA made highly effective, evidence-based preventive services available more than ever before. Preventive services should be available to everyone. It shouldn’t matter where you live or how you get your health care. The impact of this decision on the public’s health, especially for people of color, will be disastrous. It’s not the time to go backwards.”
“The key issue courts consider in connection with a stay is the ‘balance of the harms.’ The greatest threat here is the harm to patients if a stay is not granted and the ACA’s protection against cost-sharing is eliminated nationwide,” said Andrew Pincus, Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and experienced Supreme Court and appellate lawyer. “We know conclusively, from a mountain of data, that if patients have to bear even part of the cost of these preventive services they will not use them – and that will mean diseases won’t be prevented, or won’t be detected at early stages, and more Americans will suffer severe illnesses and deaths. If a stay is granted, companies and insurers will not suffer any increased burden: they just will have to continue to provide the cost-free coverage they’ve been providing for years. And if the plaintiffs are correct that few companies would even choose to impose cost-sharing, then the burden of continuing the law’s protection is minimal. Congress determined in the ACA that cost-free access to preventive services significantly enhances public health. The balance of these factors therefore weighs very heavily in favor of the stay.”
“If O’Connor’s decision stands, it will be a tragedy for millions of Americans,” said Leslie Dach, Chair of Protect Our Care. “Free screenings for depression, diabetes, and heart health not only saves families money, but it saves lives. Without this guarantee, more Americans will be forced to choose between going to the doctor and paying for other essentials like groceries and rent — meaning more Americans will get sick and more will die of entirely preventable causes.”