Two transgender employees at the University of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit Friday against the UW system, its board of regents, and its insurers over refusal to pay for gender reassignment surgeries.
With the help of the ACLU, the plaintiffs have alleged that they are being discriminated against because their taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plan denied coverage for gender reassignment surgeries.
The plaintiffs, Shannon Andrews, a research assistant at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, and Alina Boyden, a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were both born as males but identify as females. Andrews paid for his gender reassignment surgery out-of-pocket and was denied reimbursement by the insurer.
"Many people can relate to paying into an insurance plan only to be told that the treatment they need is not covered," Andrews said in a statement, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. "But when the reason you are denied coverage is because of who you are, it is even more painful. And it’s clearly discrimination."
Boyden has not undergone gender reassignment surgery yet because he knows the claim will be rejected by the insurance company.
"As a result of (state policies), plaintiffs’ health insurance plans single out transgender employees for unequal treatment by categorically depriving them of all medical care for gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition codified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and International Classification of Diseases,” the lawsuit read.
The state has excluded gender reassignment surgery from their policy for many years. Last year, the state considered making the change to cover gender transition surgery, but ultimately decided to keep the exclusion in place.
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's spokesman, Tom Evenson, said forcing the state of Wisconsin to pay for gender reassignment surgeries would be unreasonable. "We believe the policy adopted by the (state) is a reasonable measure that protects taxpayers from funding sex changes for state employees and complies with both state and federal law," he told the Journal Sentinel in an email.