Wisconsin has been ordered to foot a hefty bill for discriminating against two transgender employees.
On Wednesday, a jury awarded Alina Boyden and Shannon Andrews $780,000 in damages after the state refused them health care coverage because they are transgender.
The suit dates back to April 2017 when Boyden and Andrews filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because the state denied them coverage for gender-confirmation surgery.
Both women started to recognize their gender identity at age five, and both were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, according to court documents. Andrews was forced to pay out-of-pocket for her care, while Boyden could not afford treatment at all, according to the ACLU, which fought her case.
In September, a federal judge ruled that the denial was unconstitutional.
“No one should have to tell their story to a room full of strangers to justify their medical expenses, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to share my story,” said Boyden in a statement. “I hope this sends a powerful message to fellow transgender people in Wisconsin that our health matters.”
The case is the second insurance win for trans people in Wisconsin this year. In July, the same court found that the state likely violated the Affordable Care Act when it denied Cody Flack and Sara Makenzie surgeries under the state’s Medicaid policy.
“Wisconsin Medicaid covers medically necessary treatment for other health conditions, yet the Challenged Exclusion expressly singles out and bars a medically necessary treatment solely for transgender people suffering from gender dysphoria,” Judge William Conley wrote. “In fact, by excluding ‘transsexual surgery’ from coverage, the Challenged Exclusion directly singles out a Medicaid claimant’s transgender status as the basis for denying medical treatment.”
Wisconsin is among 10 states with Medicaid policies that exclude transition-related coverage, but the September decision throws that exclusion into peril. In June, an Iowa District Court overturned the state’s trans Medicaid ban, but Iowa Attorney General Tim Miller appealed the ruling, and a stay was granted in the case.
In ruling in favor of Boyden and Andrews in September, Conley highlighted the parallels between the Medicaid case, noting that both cases hinged on an argument over sex discrimination for medically necessary care.
In a statement, the ACLU said that Andrews and Boyden are among the first transgender people to be awarded damages for the denial of healthcare.
“Depriving transgender people of access to transition-related care is discrimination, and we are pleased the jury awarded Shannon and Alina the money they need to cover their care and for the harm they suffered,” Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Discrimination comes with a cost, and for the State of Wisconsin, the bill has come.”
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