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Houston County says no — for now — to insurance covering gender reassignment surgery

A transgender Houston County Sheriff’s Office sergeant says she’s being discriminated against because county officials will not make changes in health insurance this year that would allow coverage of gender reassignment surgery.

Sgt. Anna Lange and her attorney asked commissioners Tuesday to add treatment for gender dysphoria to the insurance coverage for 2019, but that request was denied. Gender dysphoria — the condition of identifying as the opposite of one’s biological sex — is recognized as a medical condition by organizations such as the American Medical Association.

“It’s been tough,” Lange said prior to Tuesday night’s County Commission meeting. “It makes you feel like you’re not valued as an employee. I work hard for Houston County. I work hard for the people of Houston County.

“What I’m asking for is medical care,” Lange added. “It’s not unreasonable.”

Houston County operates a self-funded health insurance plan that is administered through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Anthem offers the option for employers, such as Houston County, to have coverage for sex reassignment surgery, according to Anthem documents posted on its website.

Houston County’s insurance plan, however, does not include that type of coverage, county attorney Tom Hall said.

Hall said the County Commission will not consider adding it to it’s plan this year.

“I have advised the commission and staff not to discuss this matter due to potential litigation,” he said.

A complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be filed unless commissioners change their stance, said attorney Noah Lewis with Transcend Legal, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for health care equity for transgender clients.

“They didn’t make any promises about next year but Anna can’t wait another year for health care,” Lewis said.

Lange says she’s spent her own money for other gender dysphoria treatment, including hormone therapy and breast augmentation. Gender reassignment surgery should be covered by Houston County insurance when it’s been deemed medically necessary, she said.

Lange is a 12-year veteran of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.

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