Georgia State Workers Sue Over Denial of Trans Health Care Coverage
Author: Trudy Ring
Georgia state employees and others are suing the state over its denial of insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for transgender workers and trans dependents.
The suit, Rich v. Georgia, was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. It says the exclusion of transition procedures under the Georgia State Health Benefit Plan is unlawful discrimination. It cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, plus other court rulings.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and co-counsel Bondurant Mixson & Ellmore LLP. They include Micha Rich and Benjamin Johnson, who are both employees of Georgia government agencies and are being denied transgender-related health care; the Campaign for Southern Equality, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ civil rights organization; and Jane Doe, a state employee, and her young adult child John Doe, who is transgender and is enrolled in state health plan.
“Members enrolled in SHBP health plans generally receive coverage for their medically necessary care. However, the SHBP plans in which Plaintiffs are enrolled withdraw coverage when it is needed for transgender healthcare — even where the exact same care is covered for other members who need it for other purposes,” the suit reads.
“Time and again, courts have ruled that denying health care to people because they are transgender is not only clearly wrong — it is also clearly illegal,” David Brown, legal director for TLDEF, said in a press release. “We had a landmark victory on this exact question just a few months ago, and we are confident that the courts will once again come to the right decision — that there is no room for discrimination in Georgia.”
TLDEF had a victory in June in lawsuit Lange v. Houston County, in which a Georgia federal district court ruled that an employer cannot exclude or deny coverage for transition-related medical treatments from its employee health insurance plan. This was the first such ruling in the South.
This year, Georgia also ended its exclusion for transgender-related health care in its Medicaid plan, after being sued in a federal case called Thomas v. Georgia Department of Community Health. And in 2018, the University System of Georgia settled a lawsuit, Musgrove v. Board of Regents, brought by TLDEF’s former trans health project director, in which it agreed to remove the trans health care exclusion from its employee health plan and pay the plaintiff $100,000.
“Far too often, government institutions and extremist forces discriminate against transgender people by limiting our access to necessary health care,” said Holiday Simmons, director of healing and resilience for the Campaign for Southern Equality. “When governments intervene in the conversations that should be between a medical provider and a patient, it harms us, it limits our treatment options, and it’s wrong.”
The organization, among other things, makes emergency assistance grants to individuals, some of whom are beneficiaries of the Georgia state health plan and need the money to help with expenses incurred because transition-related care isn’t covered by their insurance.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring