Gender identity can be a sensitive issue, and one rarely touched upon by the insurance industry. Indeed, there are few occasion on which the insurance industry would get involved in such issues. Oregon, however, is among the first states in the U.S. to be subject to a lawsuit filed by a transgendered public employee. The lawsuit stems from the state’s health care insurance plan denying to pay for a medical procedure. Oregon’s public employee benefits board is being accused of discrimination in regard to gender identity.
Alec Esquivel, a 41 year old woman, is a law clerk with the state’s court of appeals. Esquivel was born a woman, but has long identified as male. In 2001, Esquivel began undergoing hormone therapy in preparation to making the transition from woman to man. This year, she sought to obtain a hysterectomy. The state-backed insurance company providing employee health care refused to cover the procedure, citing its policy of not offering transition-related health care.
Last year, Esquivel was advised by a doctor to undergo a hysterectomy. The hormones that Esquivel takes for her therapy are changing her body to better conform to male anatomy. As such, Esquivel’s female reproductive organs are being damaged as they no longer have a steady supply of estrogen. This can lead to cancer and other complications. Esquivel’s suit claims that these dangers are the primary reason for her seeking a hysterectomy.
In all, Esquivel is looking to be awarded $250,000 in reparations for emotional stress, as well as get the state’s health insurance company to pay for her procedure.
The lawsuit marks the first time anti-discrimination laws are being applied to health care. If successful, it will set a new precedent in Oregon and throughout the U.S. that could mean a shift in policy for many of the nation’s insurance companies.