Jennifer Fletcher won her case to have Alaska provide health care for transgender employees.
A state librarian who transitioned from male to female, Fletcher was denied coverage by AlaskaCare -- the state’s healthcare plan. A federal judge ruled on Friday that Alaska had discriminated against Fletcher based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“This is such a wonderful sense of vindication,” Fletcher said.
A blanket exclusion in the AlaskaCare plan prevented Fletcher from medically necessary transition-related surgical treatment. U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland ruled Alaska “adopted and relied upon a formal, facially discriminatory policy”
“If plaintiff’s natal sex were female and it was medically necessary for her to have a vaginoplasty to correct a congenital defect, coverage would have been available under AlaskaCare,” Holland wrote. “But, because plaintiff’s natal sex is male and she was seeking to transition to a female, coverage was not available."
Fletcher, 37, admitted to gender dysphoria in 2014 and began hormone therapy. By 2016, she knew surgery would be essential. AlaskaCare, however, excluded surgical procedures that altered the appearance or function of the body. Consequently, Fletcher traveled to Thailand to obtain gender-confirming surgery -- specifically vaginoplasty and mammoplasty -- paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for the procedures.
“Transgender employees should never be forced to endure what Jennifer endured, to be denied potentially life-saving treatment simply because of who they are,” Lambda Legal Counsel Tara Borelli said. “Jennifer was denied coverage for medically necessary treatment while her co-workers received full coverage for all their health care needs, all because of a discriminatory policy. The court rightly saw that as wrong and found that Alaska broke federal law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in employment.”
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