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Morrisey to challenge ruling that West Virginia discriminates against transgender patients

By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Monday he would challenge another decision of a federal appeals court to the U.S. Supreme Court after it said West Virginia could not deny Medicaid coverage for gender reassignment surgeries.

In an 8-6 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled Monday in favor of Shauntae Anderson and a defendant in North Carolina, where laws and regulations were blocking the defendants from access to gender reassignment surgeries. The decision paves the way for state managed healthcare plans to pay for these kinds of surgeries.

Anderson was challenging the former state Department of Health and Human Resources and a 2004 law that bans the state’s Medicaid program from using taxpayer dollars from paying for gender-affirming surgeries, though state Medicaid does cover medication for gender-affirming care for adults.

While attorneys for DHHR argued that the ban on gender reassignment surgeries was due to the cost, the fourth circuit said the ban was a form of discrimination since in West Virginia, Medicaid does pay for similar surgeries when not being used for gender reassignment, such as mastectomies and breast reduction surgeries. The fourth circuit decision upholds the decisions of lower federal courts that ruled in the defendant’s favor.

The majority opinion was penned by Judge Roger Gregory, a 1975 graduate of West Virginia University, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2001.

The North Carolina and West Virginia appellants’ central argument is that the coverage exclusions do not discriminate against a suspect or quasi-suspect class and are rationally related to legitimate government interests,” Gregory wrote. “Because we hold that the coverage exclusions facially discriminate on the basis of sex and gender identity, and are not substantially related to an important government interest, we affirm the district courts. We further hold that the West Virginia exclusion violates the Medicaid Act and the Affordable Care Act.”

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