ACLU Challenges Major Health System’s Denial of Insurance for Transgender Employee

Lawsuit Argues Dignity Health’s Denial of Medically Necessary Care Violates Civil Rights Act and Affordable Care Act

June 6, 2016 1:15 pm

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SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit against the fifth largest health care system in the U.S., Dignity Health, because it denies transgender employees health insurance coverage for medically necessary transition-related health care.

Joe Robinson, an operating room nurse at Chandler Regional Medical Center in Chandler, Arizona, is challenging his employer’s discriminatory insurance policy, which contradicts widely accepted medical standards and violates federal law. The lawsuit argues that Dignity Health’s refusal to provide insurance coverage for medically necessary transition-related care discriminates on the basis of sex, in violation of Title VII the Civil Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act.

“I was shocked when Dignity, which is supposed to be in the business of healing and holds itself out to the public as a bastion of ‘humankindness,’ told me they would not authorize insurance coverage for my doctor-prescribed treatment,” Robinson said. “All I want is the same health benefits other, non-transgender Dignity employees receive, which is coverage for medically necessary treatments.”

After Dignity denied Robinson’s insurance coverage for transition-related care, sometimes referred to as gender dysphoria treatment, he was forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket. Robinson filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a determination finding reasonable cause to believe that the Dignity Health insurance plan discriminates against Robinson on the basis of sex and authorized him to sue the health system.

“Every major medical association has affirmed that transition-related health care for transgender people is medically necessary,” said Josh Block, an attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “Under Title VII and the Affordable Care Act, these sorts of discriminatory insurance provisions are illegal in all 50 states.”

The lawsuit, Robinson v. Dignity Health, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Dignity Health, which operates 39 hospitals and more than 400 care centers in California, Nevada, and Arizona, has its corporate headquarters in San Francisco.

In addition to Block, attorneys for Robinson include Elizabeth Gill and Christine Sun of the ACLU of Northern California, Leslie Cooper of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, and Darrell Hill of the ACLU of Arizona.

The complaint filed today is available here:

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