A transgender public employee sued the state of Oregon on Tuesday for its health policy’s discrimination against gender identity.
Alec Esquivel, who was born female, is a 41 year old law clerk at the Oregon Court of Appeals. He is suing the state and its Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) for $250,000 in damages after he was denied coverage for a preventative hysterectomy surgery.
Providence Health Plans, Portland, Ore, a third party administrator for the state and PEBB denied coverage in July 2010 stating, “services related to a sex-change operation, including evaluation, surgery and follow-up services are not a covered benefit of your plan.”
Esuivel’s lawyer, Dru Levasseur, a transgender rights attorney at Lambda Legal said, “Alec Esquivel was denied coverage for a medically necessary procedure specifically because he is transgender. This type of discrimination is unlawful and risks the health of hardworking, productive citizens of Oregon.”
Providence’s policy, as well as two other Oregon state employee health plans exclude, “all services related to sexual disorders or dysfunctions regardless of gender, including all Services related to a sex-change operation, including evaluation, surgery and follow-up Services.”
Esquivel was diagnosed with gender identity disorder in 2001 and began transitioning to his male-oriented identity. In 2010, doctors said it was necessary for Alec to undergo a hysterectomy to prevent ovarian and uterine cancers and to offset the hormones he takes for gender change.
Earlier this month, the Portland city council unanimously passed transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for city of Portland employees. Portland previously provided transgender coverage for prescription medications, office visits and mental health treatment.
“This City does not discriminate; it does not make judgments about people’s status,” said Portland City Council Commissioner Nick Fish after the regulations passed.