Delaware County transgender man sues Pa. to get Medicaid coverage for surgery

    In Pennsylvania

    In Pennsylvania

    Eleven states require Medicaid to cover treatment for gender confirmation surgery. Now a lawsuit in federal court aims to add Pennsylvania to that list.

    Last week, a Delaware County transgender man sued the state Department of Human Services for refusing to cover a hysterectomy. The procedure was prescribed by his doctor through the state’s Medicaid program as a treatment for gender dysphoria, a diagnosis that describes the distress of one’s emotional and psychological gender identity not matching the gender one is assigned at birth.

    The laws of the state are explicit in denying payment for treatment of a range of trans health issues, according to the plaintiff’s attorney, Julie Chovanes.

    “There are five separate provisions that bar [payment for] physician care, hospital care, pharmaceutical care, emergency room care, and these little things hospitals have now called ambulatory surgical units,” she said.

    In the suit, Chovanes argues that the state’s ban on Medicaid coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria violates the Constitution’s equal-protection clause as well as the Medicaid Act and the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiff, 30, is identified only as John Doe.

    “People mock you, they beat you,” said Chovanes, a trans woman, of the distress that comes from gender dysphoria, a medical and psychiatric diagnosis. Treatments differ from patient to patient, but surgery to bring a person’s body in line with their gender identity is a recognized form of care.

    Neither New Jersey nor Delaware mandate that private or public insurance cover trans health care either.

    In response to the lawsuit, Gov. Tom Wolf has said he supports coverage of trans health care.

    Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the nature of gender dysphoria, misspelled the name of attorney Julie Chovanes, and misidentified the date of the lawsuit.

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