Federal court rules employers cannot deny transgender health coverage

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ruled June 2 that employers who exclude health coverage for "sex-change" surgeries are violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The plaintiff, Anna Lange, is a transgender woman and sheriff's deputy in Houston County, Ga. Her employer, the Houston County Sheriff's Office, provides health coverage to employees through a plan sponsored by Anthem.

The county's plan has 68 medical exclusions and 29 pharmacy benefit exclusions. Starting in 1998, the plan excluded coverage "drugs for sex change surgery" and "services and supplies for a sex change and/or the reversal of a sex change," according to court documents.

Ms. Lange originally brought the lawsuit in 2019 after she was denied coverage for a vaginoplasty in 2018.

The judge wrote that the exclusion "plainly discriminates because of transgender status," and as a result violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He highlighted that the plan would provide hormone therapy for menopause and surgery for breast cancer, but it would not cover the same procedures for gender dysphoria.

"The undisputed, ultimate point is that the Exclusion applies only to transgender members, and it applies to Lange because she is transgender," the judge wrote.

In 2016, the county's insurance broker also told the county that Anthem would stop excluding coverage for gender dysphoria treatments under the Affordable Care Act.

"Despite Anthem's recommendation to do so, the County chose not to accept the nondiscrimination mandate," the judge said.

 

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