Hearing in Case to End Discrimination in Trans Health Coverage

On Friday, March 23, the Hon. Donovan W. Frank, Senior U.S. District Court Judge, will hear arguments in our lawsuit,  Brittany Tovar and Reid Olson v. Essentia Health and HealthPartners, challenging health care discrimination against transgender patients.

 Plaintiff Brittany Tovar

Plaintiff Brittany Tovar

Gender Justice represents Brittany and Reid in their suit against Brittany's former employer, Essentia Health, and the administrator of its employee health plan, HealthPartners, following their denial of coverage for health care treatment and services for Reid's gender dysphoria.

Gender Justice has pursued this important case because the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557, which prohibits sex discrimination in health care, requires health insurance companies to cover gender-affirming health care for trans patients.

Download more information on this case here.

At a gathering this morning before the hearing, Brittany, Gender Justice's senior counsel Lisa Stratton, and Family Tree Clinic's patient resource coordinator, Nathalie Crowley shared the following statements with supporters and the media.

As parents, we will move heaven and earth to ensure that our children are healthy, happy, and safe. I am also a nurse, and I take seriously that responsibility to provide appropriate compassionate care. I’m familiar with the anxiety, depression, and distress that can result when a person diagnosed with gender dysphoria can’t get treatment. In this case, the person is my son. By applying different standards for treating transgender people when treatment is not only warranted but prescribed by a doctor, Essentia and HealthPartners displayed blatant discrimination.

“When Essentia and HealthPartners refused my son’s treatment based on his gender identity, they violated Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, a first-of-its-kind provision banning discrimination in health care based on sex. They also effectively denied my son the ability to get the care he needed at the critical time he needed it. The out of pocket cost, $9,000 was prohibitive for our family and unfortunately, he did not receive the care his doctor recommended.

“The mission statement of Essentia Health is to make a healthy difference in people’s lives. Yet, Essentia chose to deny access to health services for a whole group of people who are already at a higher risk for depression and suicide. They undermined the standard of high quality, patient-centered health that Essentia seeks to embody.

“When we needed it most, my employer and health care insurance provider did not care for my child’s health. Where is the justice in that? My hope today is that they are held accountable.
— Statement of Brittany Tovar, Plaintiff
Today, Gender Justice is proud to stand beside our brave clients, Brittany Tovar and Reid Olson, in fighting for the rights of all trans people to have access to the health care they need to live full, healthy, gender-affirming lives. We thank them for coming forward to bring this suit to draw a line in the sand that says, ‘we won’t go back!’

“Let’s be clear, Essentia Health would like you to believe that the Affordable Care Act allows them to discriminate against trans people. In fighting this case, they are taking a page from the Trump Administration’s playbook to try to roll back protections and avoid responsibility for their blatantly discriminatory health insurance plan. Trump may have appointed an anti-LGBTQ ideologue to head the civil rights division of the Department of Health and Human Services—but in our system the courts get the final say.

“At the same time, HealthPartners, the third-party administrator of Essentia’s self-funded health plan, would like you to believe that they didn’t discriminate against trans patients even though they literally wrote the plan that Essentia signed a contract for them to administer. HealthPartners has a responsibility to only offer plans that comply with the law in the first place.

“Today, the courts have an opportunity to come down on the right side of history. To reinforce what we all already know to be true – that when you are denying care to trans people because they are trans – that is discrimination on the basis of sex. Period.
— Statement of Lisa Stratton, co-founder and senior counsel of Gender Justice
Discrimination in health care for transgender people is unethical – and it’s widespread. Far too many employers and insurance companies feel free to sidestep the law and deny people coverage for doctor-prescribed, medically necessary services based solely on their gender identity. As one of the leaders in the region providing accessible care for transgender people, Family Tree Clinic sees patients from across a seven-state region. Many of them have limited or no coverage for their specific medical needs, and are forced to go into debt or forgo treatment because they can’t afford necessary appointments and medications.

“We see first-hand the long-lasting, detrimental effects that come from lack of access to appropriate health care. We see friends, clients, and patients suffer needlessly because their employers and insurance companies refuse to cover the care they need. These are discriminatory practices based on gender identity.
— Statement of Nathalie Crowley, Patient Resource Coordinator at Family Tree Clinic
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