Transgender librarian files suit over Alaska health policy

JUNEAU, Alaska — A transgender woman filed a discrimination lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Alaska, saying she was denied coverage for medically necessary surgical treatment.

The federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jennifer Fletcher, claimed the state health insurance plan excludes coverage for surgical treatment for gender dysphoria.

The lawsuit stated that because the only people who require medically necessary care to treat gender dysphoria are transgender, denying coverage discriminates against transgender people.

Fletcher, 36, works as a legislative librarian in Juneau. She has been forced to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for health care expenses not covered by her insurance plan, said the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

The lawsuit also wants a judge to find that the state violated Fletcher's rights.

Cori Mills, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Law, said in an email that the department will review the complaint and respond accordingly, once served.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states, including Wisconsin.

Fletcher's lawsuit argues that an exclusion of coverage for transition-related care dates to at least 1979, "when understanding of transgender people was far more limited."

Peter Renn, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal and one of Fletcher's attorneys, called the policy "antiquated, irrational and downright cruel."

"Imagine if you were limited to health care treatment from 40 years ago. That would be unthinkable," he said. He noted the state medical plan has recently started covering transition-related hormone therapy as medically necessary.

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