One Judge, One Court, One Doomsday Decision
COMMENTARY

April 5, 2023by Antjuan Seawright, Founder & CEO, Blueprint Strategy LLC
One Judge, One Court, One Doomsday Decision
FILE - The healthcare.gov website is seen on Dec. 14, 2021, in Fort Washington, Md. A federal judge in Texas who previously ruled to dismantle the Affordable Care Act struck down a narrower but key part of the nation's health law Thursday, March 30, 2023, in a decision that opponents say could jeopardize preventive screenings for millions of Americans. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

On Thursday, March 30, 2023 — “a date which will live in infamy,” to borrow a phrase from President Franklin D. Roosevelt — millions of Americans’ lives were put at risk by 57-year-old Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Now, I understand that, for some folks, that may sound like hyperbole. It is not. O’Connor’s March ruling rolled back some Affordable Care Act mandates requiring insurers cover many preventive care treatments.

In 1941, 2,403 U.S. personnel died at Pearl Harbor when the “United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” said FDR. O’Connor’s ruling, if upheld, has the potential to inflict even more damage across the nation.

You see, among other things, the ACA mandates in question require that insurance companies cover some critical preventive care at no cost to consumers like me and you. What kind of preventive care? I’m glad you asked.

The ACA requires that insurance companies pay for:

  • Screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, aortic aneurysm, hepatitis B and C, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, gestational diabetes, adolescent obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, skin cancer and more.
  • Programs to prevent domestic violence.
  • Programs to support victims of intimate partner violence.
  • Exercise interventions to prevent dangerous falls in adults 65 or older.
  • Prenatal care.
  • Interventions to identify depression and prevent suicides.
  • Treatments to help people quit smoking.
  •  PrEP medication that reduces the chances of contracting HIV.

And that’s just a start.

O’Connor’s decision would stop all of it. That means more than 3.6 million American women every year won’t have free screenings for preeclampsia and gestational diabetes or counseling for perinatal and postpartum depression. That’s 3.6 million every year, and O’Connor put their lives at risk.

Of course, that’s not all. You want your brother to stop smoking? I hope he can pay for interventions himself, because O’Connor took those away too. 

Do you have a history of colon cancer in your family? Well, I hope you can pay for that annual colonoscopy, because that coverage is also out.

Did your mother die of breast cancer? I’m sorry, because that genetic screening is gone, as are routine mammograms and the medication used to reduce the risk in women aged 35 or older … unless you can pay for it yourself.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic leave your child struggling with anxiety or depression or both? O’Connor says too bad. 

The simple fact is that 89% of Americans (including a majority of Republicans) say they support requiring health insurance companies to cover the cost for most preventive services.

Unfortunately, O’Connor doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t care about the millions of Americans whose lives he puts at risk. He doesn’t care about maternal mortality, cancer death rates or any of the countless preventable conditions that threaten our families every day.

But we do.


Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, and a CBS News political contributor. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea 

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