Future of transgender health care unclear after court ruling

MADISON, Wis. – The future of health care for the transgender community is unclear after two year-end moves by the state and federal government.

A federal judge issued a ruling Saturday striking down regulations from the Obama administration to ensure certain medical services are covered and advising that transgender discrimination violated the Affordable Care Act.

But a U.S. District Court judge found that the rule could violate the religious beliefs of doctors.

“Plaintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain current policies… and risk the severe consequences of enforcement,” Judge Reed O’Connor wrote in the ruling.

The decision came just hours after the Wisconsin Group Insurance board met Friday and voted 7-2 to reconsider a decision to allow coverage of gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatments for transgender state employees.

The board voted earlier in 2016 to allow the services following the federal regulation. The decision by the board was contingent on a number of factors, including the reversal of the law by a judge.

Darla Lannert, transgender health consultant for OutReach, was dismayed by the developments.

“What’s going to happen again is trans people are going to be denied these services,” Lannert said. “To reinstitute or reinstate that exclusion was just really hurtful.”

The unexpected meeting Friday was filled with those interested in the issue, including Dr. Kathy Oriel, who said she’s been treating transgender patients for more than 20 years.

“The medical community’s clear recognition that was not true 10 or even 20 years ago is this absolutely is medically necessary care,” Oriel said.

Lannert said she agrees that it is a life-and-death issue that many don’t understand.

“I hid it all my life, and there became a time where it was either transition or die,” Lannert said.

The other contingencies of the insurance board’s decision are compliance with the law requiring the insurance board to not expand benefits unless costs were reduced, renegotiation of contracts that reduce costs, and a final decision by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

The board will meet again on Jan. 18 to discuss the issue.



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