Minn. mother sues after gender reassignment coverage denied

The family of a northern Minnesota teenager is suing two health care providers after they denied insurance coverage for medicine and surgery for their child to transition from a female to male.

Brittany Tovar, a nurse practitioner in Ada who works for Duluth-based Essentia health, filed the suit against her employer and HealthPartners, which administers Essentia's employee health coverage.

The suit said Tovar's child, born a female, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and required medications and procedures to change to a male. It said Tovar's employer-provided family health insurance coverage includes an exclusion for gender reassignment services and procedures.

"This isn't a lawsuit about a particular surgery, said Jill Gaulding, an attorney for St. Paul-based Gender Justice who is representing the family. "It's a lawsuit about the fact that they have in their employee benefits package a flat exclusion to any type of care related to gender reassignment."

The complaint alleges Essentia denied coverage for a prescription for Lupron, a hormonal therapy drug, and Tovar initially had to pay for another of her child's prescriptions out of pocket. It also said that Tovar contacted her employer's health insurance administrator HealthPartners, to get approval for surgery and was denied.

The federal discrimination suit asks for the denial to be reversed, and monetary damages and court costs. The suit was filed in St. Paul, but has been assigned to the federal court in Duluth.

A spokesperson for Essentia said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

A HealthPartners spokesperson also declined comment on the suit, but said "HealthPartners has a long history of providing care that is inclusive of the diverse communities we serve."

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