Metro Weekly

Federal judge orders Wisconsin to pay for transgender residents’ surgeries

Judge rules that cost concerns of the state do not outweigh the "ongoing, irreparable harm" facing the transgender plaintiffs

Source: Ted Eytan – Flickr

A federal judge has ruled that Wisconsin must pay for two transgender residents’ gender confirmation surgeries.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled on Wednesday in favor of Cody Flack, 30, and Sara Ann Makenzie, 41. They had jointly filed a lawsuit in April arguing that being denied gender confirmation surgery through Medicaid violated their equal protection rights, as well as the Affordable Care Act.

“The likelihood of ongoing, irreparable harm facing these two individual plaintiffs outweighs any marginal impacts on the defendants’ stated concerns regarding public health or limiting costs,” Conley said in the 39-page order.

Conley granted a preliminary injunction that bars a 1996 “transsexual surgery” rule that was used to exclude Flack and Makenzie coverage. He added the rule “feeds into sex stereotypes by requiring all transgender individuals receiving Wisconsin Medicaid to keep genitalia and other prominent sex characteristics consistent with their natal sex no matter how painful and disorienting it may prove for some.”

He said that his ruling may reach any transgender Medicaid patient whose doctor recommends surgery. There are an estimated 5,000 transgender enrollees in Wisconsin’s Medicaid, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Attorney Rock Pledl said the ruling was “tremendous” and that Flack could get his surgery in the coming weeks. Due to Makenzie’s insurance being through a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), she may have to wait a few months before she can have her surgery covered.

Both Flack and Makenzie make use of Supplemental Security Income for the disabled. Flack has cerebral palsy and has identified as male since he was age 5, while Makenzie has identified as a woman since 2012.

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