Lamda Legal filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the State of Oregon over a denial of health insurance coverage for a trans employee’s gender reassignment-related surgery that was deemed medically necessary in order to treat his Gender Identity Disorder (GID).
The man in question, Alec Esquivel, is a law school graduate clerking for the Oregon Court of Appeals. Sex-assigned female at birth, Esquivel was officially diagnosed with GID in 2001, at which time he began the long process of altering his physical gender expression to match his male gender identity.
In 2010 Esquivel sought as part of that transition process insurance coverage for a hysterectomy, a procedure that with few exceptions is routinely covered under employee state health plans. However, on June 21, 2010, the coverage was denied Esquivel based on the plan’s exclusion of transition-related health care. This Lambda Legal will now argue in court is a violation of Oregon’s nondiscrimination guarantees.
“Alec Esquivel was denied coverage for a medically necessary procedure specifically because he is transgender. This type of discrimination is unlawful and risks the health of hardworking, productive citizens of Oregon,” said Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Attorney at Lambda Legal. “By not covering this procedure, the state is refusing to provide him with the same health care coverage as his co-workers.”
“Whether your insurance will cover a medically necessary procedure should not depend on who you are,” said Jennifer Middleton, attorney for Middleton & Lee, PC. “The Oregon legislature outlawed this kind of discrimination in 2007 and the State has no place continuing to practice it.”
Gender Identity Disorder is a serious medical condition recognized by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Association of Social Workers. GID treatment varies by individual, but can involve a combination of hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and Real Life Experience (living for a period of time in accordance with your gender identity). The AMA and other the organizations above have called for an end to discriminatory exclusions of medical care in public and private health insurance policies for people with GID.
“My doctor has determined that this procedure is necessary for me,” said Alec Esquivel. “Other people who work here and who need this very same procedure get the coverage they need, why shouldn’t I?”
Read more about the case, Esquivel v. Oregon.
Lambda Legal filed the suit against the state of Oregon and the Public Employees’ Benefit Board on the grounds that Oregon’s nondiscrimination law prohibits an employer from denying insurance coverage on grounds of gender identity.
Senate Bill 2, the Oregon Equality Act, passed in May of 2007 and brought into force January 2008, added sexual orientation to the state’s nondiscrimination statute as it applies to employment and housing.
Sexual orientation is defined by the statute as “an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.