Georgia agrees to cover the cost of gender-affirming care for public employees, settling lawsuit

The state of Georgia will begin paying for gender-affirming health care for public employees covered under the state’s health insurance program

The plaintiffs decided to dismiss their lawsuit Thursday in Atlanta federal court, announcing that they had reached a settlement with the State Health Benefits Program.

The December lawsuit argues that the insurance plan illegally discriminated by refusing to pay for gender-affirming care.

David Brown, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a phone interview Thursday that there is no moral, medical, legal or any other justification for considering the care Transgender health is different and denies people access to it.

The state Department of Public Health, which oversees the insurance program, did not immediately respond Thursday to an email requesting comment.

The state will also pay a total of $365,000 to the plaintiffs and their attorneys as part of the settlement. Micha Rich, Benjamin Johnson and an unnamed state employee suing on behalf of her adult child all say they paid out of their own pockets that should have been covered by insurance.

Starting July 1, Georgia legally banned new patients under 18 from starting hormone therapy and banned most gender confirmation surgeries for transgender people under 18. That law, which has been challenged in court but remains in effect, allows doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and allows minors who have received hormone therapy to continue.

But Brown said Thursday’s settlement requires the health insurance plan to pay for care deemed medically necessary for spouses and dependents as well as employees. That means the health plan may have to pay for out-of-state care for a minor even though this is prohibited in Georgia.

The plan cannot treat this care differently than other care not available in the state, Brown said.

The lawsuit cites a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that treating someone differently because they are transgender or gay violates a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The plaintiffs in that case included a Clayton County employee in Georgia.

Affected are two health plans paid for by the state but managed by Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare.

This is the fourth lawsuit against Georgia agencies seeking to force them to pay for gender confirmation surgery and other procedures. State and local governments have lost or settled previous lawsuits.

The University System of Georgia had to pay $100,000 in damages in addition to changing its regulations in 2019 when it settled a case brought by a University of Georgia dining services manager . And the Department of Public Health last year agreed to change the rules of the state’s Medicaid program to resolve a lawsuit by two Medicaid beneficiaries.

Last year, a jury ordered Houston County to pay $60,000 in damages to a sheriff’s deputy after a federal judge ruled that her employers illegally denied her Medical insurance for sheriff’s deputies for gender confirmation surgery. Houston County is appealing that ruling, and oral arguments are scheduled for November before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs in the case settled Thursday include three transgender men. Micha Rich is an accountant at the Georgia Department of Auditing and Accounts, and Benjamin Johnson is communications secretary for the Bibb County School District in Macon. The mother of the third man, identified only as John Doe, is an employee of the Paulding County Department of Children and Family Services and covers insurance for college students.

All three were identified as female at birth but transitioned after therapy. All three appealed their denial of mastectomy or reduction surgery and received a finding from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Georgia was discriminating against them.

I am happy to know that none of my transgender colleagues will have to go through what I did,” Rich said in a statement.

A court ruling found a similar ban in North Carolina illegal; The state is calling. Wisconsin’s ban was overturned in 2018. West Virginia and Iowa have also lost lawsuits over employee coverage, while Florida and Arizona are being sued.


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