Two Wisconsin residents are suing the state because their gender reassignment surgeries will not be paid for under Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.
Cody Flack, a 30-year-old transgender man, and Sara Makenzie, a 41-year-old transgender woman, filed the lawsuit which challenges the exclusion of the surgery from coverage. Wisconsin is one of 10 states that prohibit Medicaid funding of sex reassignment surgery.
The plaintiffs have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria which is a conflict of a person’s gender identity and their biological sex. Flack and Makenzie sought gender reassignment surgery, following other gender transitions like hormone therapy, at the recommendation of their doctors to “alleviate their ongoing symptoms of gender dysphoria.”
The two cannot afford the surgery out-of-pocket and, as they depend on federal benefits for needs like health care, came up against the Wisconsin state regulation which “expressly prohibits Wisconsin Medicaid coverage for ‘transsexual surgery’ or ‘drugs, including hormone therapy, associated with transsexual surgery or medically unnecessary alterations of sexual anatomy or characteristics.”
The attorneys contend the exclusion is a violation of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity, the Medicaid Act and the due process guarantee of the 14th Amendment, the AP reported.
“I am bringing this lawsuit to get the medical care I need to finally feel like myself, on the inside and the outside,” Flack, who began his gender transition to male at 18, said. According to the lawsuit, he has experienced “profound depression and emotional distress” apparently because he is prevented from undergoing the surgery.
Makenzie, who has been living as a woman since 2012, has been suicidal and “engaged in self-harming behaviors, including cutting in her genital area,” according to the lawsuit.
“No one should have to struggle just to be who they are,” she said.
Makenzie and Flack are asking the judge to rule that the gender reassignment surgery exclusion from coverage is discriminatory and unconstitutional and want the state to be prevented from enforcing it. They are seeking compensation for “economic and non-economic injuries arising from being denied medically necessary health care coverage.”
Dr. Ilana Addis, an ob-gyn who has worked with transgender patients and is chief of staff at Banner University Medical in Phoenix, Ariz., said she is “regularly frustrated when a bureaucrat or politician tells me how to practice medicine,” in an op-ed published by The Hill on Tuesday.
“As a specialist in female pelvic surgery and reproductive medicine, I am exceedingly qualified to offer my male patients many of the services and procedures they need to continue their transition,” she wrote. “Asking them to prove that this care is medically necessary and worthy of payment is not just offensive and discriminatory but also heartless and inhumane.”