Two Idaho residents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Health and Social Care alleging discriminatory policies to deny transgender people Medicaid coverage for gender reassignment surgery, according to the complaint.
Transgender women pass TB and MH in court documents and are 18 and 21 years old, respectively. They asked the court to allow their names to be stamped on court records to protect them from harassment, threats or acts of violence.
Howard Belodoff, attorney for Idaho Legal Aid Services, represents the individuals, names of the complainants, Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jepsen and Idaho Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Magni Hamsow.
Nikki Forbing Orr, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health and Social Care, said the administration does not comment on pending or current litigation.
Idaho Medicaid is a health insurance program jointly funded by the state and the federal government that provides medical coverage to eligible low-income residents. The Department of Health and Welfare administers the state’s Medicaid program.
According to a press release about the complaint, said officials implemented a policy of unreasonable delay and denied permission to treat gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is defined as the distress experienced by a transgender person by having a gender identity that conflicts with the gender assigned to them at birth, according to the Mayo Clinic. The complaint says the symptoms of dysphonia can be treated with genital reconstruction surgery.
“Whereas transgender persons naturally receive same or similar health care, defendants Jepsen and Hamsoo refuse to cover similar care for transgender Medicaid beneficiaries, under the policy of characterizing gender confirmation surgery as ‘cosmetic’ and not medically necessary,” The complaint states.
Belodov wrote in the complaint that the policy is discriminatory and violates provisions of the Medicaid Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Equal Protection and Due Process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The father of an Idaho plaintiff fears that further delay will increase suicide risk
According to the complaint, it has been 17 months since the 21-year-old plaintiff, identified as MH, requested coverage for surgery that her applicants said was medically necessary. The department, according to the complaint, did not provide a final decision or opportunity for a hearing to appeal the refusal or delay.
The complaint notes that the 18-year-old plaintiff who was identified as having tuberculosis was told the department considered plastic surgery, even though health care providers said it was medically necessary. The ministry did not grant a hearing to appeal the refusal after more than four months, it said.
The TB parent gave a supportive statement saying that between the ages of 11 and 12, TB was twice admitted to mental health facilities “because of her unwillingness to live in the world where she could not be true to herself.”
“The long delay in obtaining Medicaid approval for gender confirmation surgery has made TB extremely mentally weak and I fear that she will once again lose hope and attempt suicide,” the statement read.
The parent, who did not give her name, said TB had already been bullied in high school and in other areas of her personal life, and said that some people in their community have said transgender people are “evil” and “just want attention.”
“There are legislators and local government officials in Idaho who openly support transgender discrimination and oppose providing them with legal protections against discrimination in health care, employment, and housing,” one parent wrote. “The atmosphere fostered by these officials in my community makes us feel like we don’t belong in Idaho, and they don’t care about tuberculosis and our well-being and safety.”
A response from state defendants is required by October 20
The complaint asks the court to prohibit any further enforcement or enforcement of the alleged practices and to issue a declaratory ruling that the plaintiffs have been subjected to discrimination based on gender, including gender identity, sexual stereotypes, and gender characteristics. It is also asking for an unspecified amount of compensation to be paid to individual women, in addition to attorneys’ fees.
According to federal court records, the defendants are required to respond by October 20. The case was assigned to District Judge Raymond Edward Patrico Jr.
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