Health

ACLU wins lawsuit for Medicaid coverage for transgender Iowans

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American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU logo American Civil Liberties Union

Two transgender women won a legal victory Thursday over the Iowa Department of Human Services after challenging the state’s ban on using Medicaid funds for sex transition medical procedures.

EerieAnna Good of the Quad Cities and Carol Ann Beal of northwest Iowa jointly filed the lawsuit late last year challenging Iowa’s classification of transition surgeries as “cosmetic.” State administrative code explicitly barred the use of Medicaid for “sex reassignment surgeries.”

On Thursday, Chief District Judge Arthur Gamble ruled the state ban violated the Iowa Constitution and its Civil Rights Act, which has included “gender identity” provisions since 2007.

“DHS has an obligation to keep up with the medical science,” Gamble wrote in his decision. “DHS failed to do so when it denied coverage to Good and Beal for medically necessary gender affirming surgery.”

Gamble also rejected the state’s request to delay implementation of Medicaid-funded reassignment surgery so new rules could be drafted.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa represented the two women.

“We are so relieved for our brave clients that they can finally get the gender confirming surgical care that all their doctors agree is medically necessary for them,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said in a statement.

ACLU attorneys pointed to inconsistencies within state administrative code regulating what was considered “cosmetic” or “reconstructive.”

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Attorneys from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office represented the Department of Human Services in the lawsuit. Attorney general spokesman Lynn Hicks declined to comment about whether the state is considering an appeal.

“We’re looking at the ruling and consulting with our client, DHS, and determining what we’ll do,” Hicks said.

The state has 30 days to appeal Gamble’s ruling.

“We certainly don’t have a crystal ball,” ACLU spokeswoman Veronica Fowler said when asked about the likelihood of an appeal. “But we certainly don’t anticipate it.”

Fowler declined to release the women’s cities of residence to protect their privacy.

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