‘Queer Eye’ Guest Gets School to End Ban on Transgender Coverage

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(Bloomberg) -- The University System of Georgia has agreed to cover medical care related to gender transitions after an employee challenged policies that denied health-insurance coverage for sexual-reassignment surgery.

Skyler Jay, a University of Georgia catering manager who is transgender, sued the public university system last year, alleging that its health plan was discriminatory. Jay, a graduate of the university, was a guest on season two of the Netflix series “Queer Eye.”

Jay, 32, said he decided to accept the settlement that would change the policy for employees across the state’s university system, rather than continue to fight in court and risk an adverse ruling.

‘Queer Eye’ Guest Gets School to End Ban on Transgender Coverage

He said he felt “incredibly relieved, not just for myself but for the community at large.” Since filing the suit last year, he’s heard from several other transgender employees seeking similar coverage for themselves or their children.

The University System of Georgia said it reached “a mutually agreeable resolution with our employee and the applicable exclusions have been removed” from the school’s health plans, Jen Ryan, a spokeswoman for the University System of Georgia, said in an email. The changes took effect Sept. 1, she said.

The resolution of Jay’s case is the latest in a string of victories for transgender plaintiffs seeking to remove barriers to treatments including hormone therapy and surgery, and other medical care for people who are transitioning.

A federal judge heard oral arguments on motions to dismiss the case in February in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

In a settlement approved in September, the Board of Regents eliminated exclusions in its health plans that denied coverage for care related to gender transitions, according to Noah Lewis, Jay’s attorney with Transcend Legal. The group specializes in such cases.

Health policies that cover gender transition care are becoming increasingly mainstream in corporate America. About 850 large employers tracked by Human Rights Campaign offer plans that cover medically necessary transition-related care, according to the group’s Corporate Equality Index. That’s up from zero in 2002. Among the companies that cover such care are Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Home Depot Inc., and Kroger Co.

The cost for a large health plan to cover sexual-reassignment surgery is minimal, because relatively few people receive such treatment. A Rand Corp. analysis commissioned by the U.S. military found that it would increase premiums by less than one-tenth of 1%.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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