West Virginia sued over transgender discrimination

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A federal lawsuit challenging health care for transgender West Virginians was filed this morning.

The suit claims transgender citizens are denied certain coverage for basic health care in the state’s health plans. According to the lawsuit, there are “blanket exclusions” of coverage expressed to Medicaid participants and state employees.

Lambda Legal says the suit is on behalf of Christopher Fain, a Medicaid Participant and Zachary Martell and Brian McNemar, a dependent and state employee respectively.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal, Nichols Kaster, PLLP, and the Employment Law Center, PLLC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The organization has filed similar lawsuits against other states fighting for transgender equality.

“Transgender and nonbinary West Virginians are denied coverage for essential, and sometimes life-saving, gender-confirming care, while cisgender West Virginians receive coverage for the same kinds of care as a matter of course,” Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Fellow at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case, said. “The exclusions of gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s state health plans are unconstitutional and discriminatory and deny transgender and nonbinary West Virginians basic dignity, equality and respect.”

Lambda Legal says West Virginia’s state health plans serge approximately 564,000 Medicaid participants and 15,000 state employees.

“No one should have the door slammed on them while they’re just trying to access basic healthcare. But that’s what these discriminatory exclusions do to people just because they’re transgender.” Fain said. “This health care is about my very survival and the health and survival of thousands of other transgender people in our community forced to go without care because of these exclusions.”

“We feel like we are being swept under the rug, treated as if we don’t exist, and that is not okay.

Christopher Fain, a Medicaid Participant and one of the West Virginians on whose behalf the lawsuit was filed

Lambda Legal says according to the lawsuit, Zachary Martell and Brian McNemar claim Martell has been denied coverage for prescriptions and office visits because the employee state health plans exclude coverage of “treatments associated with gender dysphoria,” causing them to pay out-of-pocket, or delay or forego care.

“West Virginia shouldn’t single out certain communities to deny health care coverage. These blanket exclusions are another hurdle that people shouldn’t have to jump over just to go to the doctor. the exclusions stop people from getting the care they need, which can be lifesaving,” Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of Fairness West Virginia said.

Lambda Legal has filed similar lawsuits against other states fighting for transgender equality.

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