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Alaska Allows Medicaid to Cover Gender-Affirming Health Care

Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

Following a lawsuit, the red state begrudgingly changes its policy.

Beginning Sunday, gender-affirming health care will be covered as part of Alaska's Medicaid program, which helps cover costs for low-income individuals.

The change comes after a lawsuit settlement in late June. The suit had been filed against Alaska's health department for not covering trans Alaskans and their transitions, according to The Anchorage Daily News. The suit said the state's refusal to cover gender-affirming health care costs was a violation of trans Alaskans' civil rights.

Swan Being, a trans woman in her early 70s, sued the state in 2019 after she was informed that her hormone injections were not covered under Medicaid, even though her doctors recommended her continued use of the hormones.

Robin Black and Austin Reed joined the lawsuit in 2020. Both were denied gender-affirming care as well.

Specifically, the state agreed in the settlement to take out the ban on the "treatment, therapy, surgery, or other procedures related to gender reassignment" and "transsexual surgical procedures or secondary consequences" from its Medicaid plan.

"Transition-related health care is essential health care, full stop. Our clients are delighted that the State of Alaska, at long last, recognized that fact. Our clients and other transgender Alaskans will no longer endure the physical, mental, and stigmatizing harm caused by exclusions in the state Medicaid program," Lambda Legal attorney Carl Charles said in a press release at the time of settlement.

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, represented Being, Black, and Reed along with the Northern Justice Project.

Ten states still have laws that specifically exclude gender-affirming health care from their Medicaid programs, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

In 2018, a legislative librarian, Jennifer Fletcher, sued Alaska for excluding coverage of gender-affirming surgery for trans employees. Last year, a judge sided with Fletcher. He said, according to the Associated Press, that her health care was treated differently because of her sex.

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