Transgender State Employees Sue North Carolina for Discriminatory Health Plan

The State Health Plan stopped covering transition-related care after a Republican state treasurer took over.

State workers in North Carolina are suing for discrimination against transgender people who are seeking treatment for gender dysphoria.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday on behalf of seven current and former state employees, and their children, by Lambda Legal and Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF).

“The only reason our plaintiffs are being denied coverage for medically necessary health care is because they are transgender or they have children who are transgender,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Taylor Brown in a statement.

“This is clearly unlawful discrimination that jeopardizes the health of hardworking state employees and their families. It stigmatizes them and brands them as second-class.”

“Revoking health insurance coverage for transgender employees puts the state of North Carolina on the wrong side of history,” said TLDEF Senior Staff Attorney Noah E. Lewis. “North Carolina otherwise provides excellent health care benefits, so it’s a real betrayal to have the state unfairly turn its back on its own employees and their families who face pressing health care needs.”

The State Health Plan used to include transition-related care, such as hormone replacement therapy, gender affirming surgery, and counseling, but that ended in 2017, when Republican Dale Folwell replaced Democrat Janet Cowell as state treasurer.

“I pledged to the people of North Carolina that we would reduce the state health plan’s $32 billion debt, provide a more affordable family premium especially for our lowest paid employees and provide transparency to the taxpayers,” Folwell told The News & Observer in 2016, after winning his election but before taking office. “The provision to pay for sex change operations does none of those three things.”

Plaintiff Max Kadel, a transgender man who works at UNC-Chapel Hill, said the State Health Plan will not cover breast-reduction surgery for him, but it would cover a cis man or woman who wanted the same surgery, The News & Observer reports.

“Without this care, I struggle from depression and anxiety,” said 16-year-old Connor Thonen-Fleck (pictured above) whose parents work at UNC-Greensboro.

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