A Georgia employee asked his county to include gender-affirming care as part of his health coverage. Instead, the county spent $1.2 million fighting the effort: report.
A Georgia county has been accused of refusing to include gender-affirming care as part of their health coverage.
An employee sued them for discrimination in 2019, ProPublica reported.
The county spent $1.2 million fighting it, ProPublica found — far more than the cost of treatment.
A Georgia county has been accused of refusing to expand its medical care coverage to include gender-affirming care for an employee and instead spent $1.2 million to fight the effort.
sergeant. Anna Lange, a Houston County sheriff’s deputy in Georgia, asked her county to expand health care coverage to cover her gender-affirming care, according to court documents reviewed by Insider. The county declined, citing cost as the primary reason, ProPublica reported.
Lange sued the county for discrimination, alleging that although the county provided necessary health care to employees, she “was denied medically necessary care under the plan because Houston County (the ‘County’) expressly and deliberately excluded the care she needs”. according to court documents.
Houston County did not respond to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Lange had worked for the Houston County Sheriff’s Office for more than a decade before coming out as transgender to co-workers in 2017 after a therapist diagnosed her with gender dysphoria. Her boss initially thought she was joking and later told her he didn’t “believe” in being transgender, according to deposition notes obtained by ProPublica.
Soon, Lange realized that his county-issued health insurance wouldn’t cover much of the transitional care, and all his efforts to include it were for naught, ProPublica reported.
“You knew right away that whatever I said wouldn’t matter,” she told ProPublica. “It really is a feeling of helplessness.”
Despite concerns about costs, ProPublica estimated that the legal costs to fight Lange’s case were three times the county’s budget for physical and mental health in one year.
After racking up medical debt with bills meant for collectors and using her savings and retirement funds, Lange told ProPublica she decided to sue the county in 2019 for employment discrimination. The county then hired a private law firm to fight Lange in federal court and paid them nearly $1.2 million, ProPublica reported. ProPublica estimated the cost by adding total direct payments to private law firms from the date the lawsuit was filed through Dec. 31, 2022.
“It was a slap in the face, really, to find out how much they spent,” Lange told ProPublica. “They’re treating it as a political issue, obviously, when it’s a medical issue.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, including gender-affirming care in insurance plans, especially for larger companies, usually adds only “a very small additional cost”. An expert quoted by ProPublica estimated that including transition care in the health plan would only add 0.1% to the cost of all claims.
However, Houston County said that while the costs are minimal now, they will eventually add up, and the inclusion of gender-affirming care in their health plans will make way for requests to include a coverage for abortion or weight-loss surgeries, ProPublica reported.
The Human Rights Campaign has reported that the total cost of gender-affirming care for one person is estimated to be between $25,000 and $75,000, which is minimal compared to the cost of other procedures or medications. Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign said transgender people typically face other health issues because they are unable to transition.
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