ACLU sues PeaceHealth for not covering transgender care

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a discrimination lawsuit Thursday against Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth for refusing to cover a medically necessary gender reassignment surgery for an employee's son under its health plan.

The lawsuit claims the health system's policy not to cover transgender medical care is a violation of state and federal law. The case involves Cheryl Enstad, who has worked as a medical social worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., for 20 years, and her teenage son Pax, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Pax's physicians prescribed hormone therapy and chest reconstruction surgery to alleviate the anxiety and depression associated with his gender dysphoria, according to the complaint filed by ACLU.

PeaceHealth's health plan administrator allegedly denied the request for surgery due to limitations on transgender services under the health system's benefits. Ms. Enstad and her husband allegedly paid more than $10,000 for the surgery, according to the complaint. ACLU claims this was a violation of the ACA's protection against discrimination based on sex and against state discrimination laws.

PeaceHealth is unable to comment on the pending litigation, according to spokesperson Jeremy Rush. In an emailed statement, the health system underscored its commitment to creating an inclusive healthcare environment. "Throughout our 126-year heritage, we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve," the statement said. "We remain committed to promoting personal and community health and treating each person in a loving and caring way."

PeaceHealth is a nonprofit Catholic health system with 10 medical centers throughout Washington, Oregon and Alaska.


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