Health

Wisconsin May Provide Gender Reassignment Coverage For State Workers

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Grace Carr Reporter

Wisconsin’s insurance board is considering whether to provide gender reassignment coverage for state workers, citing a changing legal landscape and efforts to retain transgender employees.

The Group Insurance Board (GIB) is now reconsidering Medicaid funding for gender reassignment surgeries after the University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor as well as the chancellors of five other University of Wisconsin (UW) System schools wrote an Aug. 8 letter to the board requesting that it add transgender health insurance benefits to the State Group Health Insurance Program.

Lack of coverage “jeopardizes our ability to attract top academic and research talent and puts us at a serious disadvantage retaining our LGBTQ employees,” the chancellors wrote in their letter.

The letter also indicates that a number of the UW System’s competitors provide gender reassignment treatments, and that “the goodwill and recruiting impact this coverage would have for a broader range of sympathetic current and prospective employees.”

The boards consideration follows U.S. District Judge William Conley’s July ruling that Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) cannot bar Medicaid funding from covering gender reassignment for two transgender Wisconsinites. The ruling prevents the DHS from enforcing a longstanding state policy baring Medicaid funding from covering medically unnecessary surgeries, including “transsexual surgery.”

“The legal landscape regarding transgender health care and transgender rights generally has developed further,” the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) wrote in an Aug. 14 memo in support of transgender treatment coverage, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Monday. The group’s three largest insurers — Dean Health Plan, WEA Trust and Quartz — provide coverage for transgender treatments. (RELATED: The Number of Sex-Change Surgeries Is Going Up, And One Doctor Is Calling It A ‘Health Emergency’)

Wisconsin’s 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has not issued a decision addressing whether health insurance plans that exclude gender reassignment treatments constitute discrimination on the basis of sex.

The board is set to decide Wednesday whether it will change its policies to include coverage for transgender therapies.

Sex reassignment surgeries cost a rough total of $40,000 to $50,000, according to estimates.

Ohio’s biggest health care company for transgender persons, Equitas Health, expanded coverage for its employees with gender dysphoria on Aug. 1 to include a large number of cosmetic procedures. Starbucks also changed its policies in June to include coverage for breast reduction or augmentation surgeries, facial feminization procedures and hair transplants among other procedures.

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