by Kelvey Vander Hart
Starting off a new year is always associated with change, and the state of Wisconsin is no exception. As 2019 begins, state Medicaid will now begin to pay for sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.
Wisconsin’s Group Insurance Board originally voted to start paying for sex reassignment and hormone therapy back in 2016. However, the vote was reversed after Governor Scott Walker asked them to reconsider. This request was based on a dispute of the federal government’s interpretation of Title IX and definition of “sexual discrimination.”
The board ended the coverage on December 30, 2016, and this reversal was upheld through a court ruling in February 1, 2017.
Outrage over this decision from the transgender community instigated a series of legal challenges. These challenges resulted in two transgender plaintiffs being awarded $780,000 after a federal judge ruled that refusal to pay for sex reassignment surgery constituted sexual discrimination.
“Discrimination comes with a cost, and for the state of Wisconsin the bill has come,” stated Larry Dupuis, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. The lawsuit was handled by the ACLU on behalf of both parties.
“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,” commented Alina Boyden, one of the parties suing the state. “I hope this sends a powerful message to fellow transgender people in Wisconsin that our health matters.”
In response to the pressure resulting from this lawsuit, the Wisconsin Group Insurance Board reverted to its original 2016 decision. It was decided in August 2018 that January 1, 2019 would be the start date for coverage.
Medicaid is taxpayer-funded health coverage. While it varies from state to state, funding is usually sourced through a blend of state and federal dollars, and states have different coverage policies.
And although the debate may be settled momentarily in Wisconsin, the issue of whether or not taxpayers should bear the burden of having to pay for a highly politicized and controversial medical service such as sex reassignment still remains largely unsolved nationwide.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0