Two transgender state employees in Wisconsin have been awarded a total amounting to over $780,500 after they were denied health coverage for hormone replacement therapy and gender affirmation surgery.
Dr. Shannon Andrews and Alina Boyden filed a suit against the state of Wisconsin in April 2017. They were represented by the ACLU of Wisconsin.
Andrews supervises a cancer research lab at the University of Wisconsin and Boyden is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As transgender women, they faced state rules that specifically excluded medically necessary coverage for hormone therapy and surgery relating to gender transition. They alleged that the rule that barred coverage for transition-related care on state insurance plans was discriminatory.
Boyden tried to see an endocrinologist in 2015, but was turned away. "They told me, 'We don’t treat transgenders here. Go someplace else,'" she told Wisconsin’s WPR. Andrews had no choice but to empty her retirement account in order to pay $79,000 in medically necessary surgery costs, an option that is not available to many other transgender people who don’t have such savings.
In a ruling last month, Federal Judge William Conley determined that the state’s policy was discriminatory, and that the Group Insurance Board must cover hormone therapy and gender affirmation surgery for transgender state workers. After repealing the exclusion in August by a vote of 5-4, the Insurance Board said it would begin to offer coverage as of January 2019.
Boyden was awarded $301,000 and Andrews $479,500 on Wednesday.
“Discrimination comes with a cost, and for the state of Wisconsin the bill has come,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin in a statement.
Both women say they were subjected to transphobic and “inappropriate” questioning throughout the trial. State attorneys had asked Andrews detailed, and personal questions about her body both before and after surgery.
Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesperson, Rebecca Ballweg, released a statement in response to the questioning via email: "DOJ stands by its handling of this difficult case. The damages trial required questioning about the requests the plaintiffs had made to have the costs of specific surgeries reimbursed. Like a personal injury trial, that required plaintiffs to discuss details of their medical condition and procedures."
“No one should have to tell their story to a room full of strangers to justify their medical expenses, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to share my story,” Boyden said in a statement. “I hope this sends a powerful message to fellow transgender people in Wisconsin that our health matters.”