NC health plan must cover gender-affirming treatments: judge

North Carolina cannot deny gender-affirming services to state employees who receive health insurance under the state health care plan, a federal judge ruled Friday in a major victory for transgender rights advocates.

U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs agreed with plaintiffs who argued that North Carolina’s state health plan for teachers and state employees discriminated against them for its “categorical exclusion » gender-affirming treatments.

The court found that the plan’s exclusion “discriminates on the basis of gender and transgender status in violation of the equal protection clause and discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2019 by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and Lambda Lega on behalf of eight current and former state employees and their children after they were denied coverage under their care plan. medically necessary health because of their gender identity.

“Like all parents, all we wanted for our child was lifesaving, medically necessary healthcare,” said Michael D. Bunting Jr., employed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a statement shared with the Daily News.

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Bunting, who is the father of a 17-year-old transgender son, spoke of the hardships the discriminatory policy has brought to his family.

“Fighting to get essential care for your child, while seeing them being discriminated against, is devastating,” he said. “We hope that no other parent will have to struggle in this way in the future.”

Tara Borelli, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, applauded the judge’s ruling, calling it “an important step toward expanding access to non-discriminatory health care for transgender public servants” in the state.

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court denied North Carolina’s motion to review a lower court ruling that the NCSHP was not entitled to sovereign immunity and that he could be sued if his actions violated the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination provisions.

“We are pleased that the court recognized this exclusion of medically necessary care for transgender state employees as unlawful discrimination,” Borelli said. “North Carolina was on the wrong side of history, and we hope that closes that unfortunate chapter.”

David Brown, TLDEF’s legal director, also celebrated the decision, noting that “gender-affirming healthcare is essential healthcare.”

“We are thrilled to know that going forward, our customers and other North Carolina State transgender employees and state employees with transgender dependents will finally have access to this lifesaving care,” a- he added.

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