Employee sues UGA for declining to pay for transition surgery

An employee of the University of Georgia (UGA), is suing the state’s university system over what he claims are “discriminatory health insurance policies for transgender employees.”

Plaintiff Skyler Jay enrolled at UGA in 2009 as a woman and was later hired by the university in 2013. During this time, Jay came out as a man and began the transition process to become a male, including a transition surgery in 2017, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jay, who recently appeared in an episode of the Netflix series Queer Eye, says he was refused coverage for a surgery to treat gender dysphoria in May of 2017, and alleges that this amounts to discrimination by the university.

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According to the publication, Skylar appealed the denial to the insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), which refused his appeal by noting that the plan is self-insured and provides no room to override the plan exclusion. 

Jay’s attorneys, however, argue that this transformational surgery is necessary care and that non-trans employees get their necessary medical care covered. 

Noah Lewis, Jay’s attorney, told the Journal-Constitution that some other institutions of higher education and major companies do not deny coverage for transition surgeries.

“The fact that transgender employees are not able to access medically necessary care while non-transgender employees have their medically necessary care covered evidences a disparate impact on a protected class,” Jay’s legal team asserts.

[RELATED: Princeton subsidizes ‘trans care’ through health plan]

Likewise, the website LGBTQ Nation suggests that the language of the Board of Regents Equal Opportunity Clause should require coverage of gender reassignment surgery. 

According to the language of the clause, “no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, sex, religion, creed, national origin, age, disability, or veteran status be excluded from employment or participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity conducted by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.”

After his insurance claim for roughly $8,300 was denied by BCBS, Jay sought to meet with USG leaders to discuss the situation, but claims that he was rebuffed.

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Jay shared his story when he appeared on Queer Eye, and subsequently created a GoFundMe page in response to an outpouring of offers from people wanting to help him after seeing the show.

“This fundraiser will go directly toward my medical debt and some funds I will donate to couple of community organizations that could also use the help,” Jay explains, noting that the transgender community had previously come to his aid by donating $8,200 toward the cost of his surgeries.

He plans to repay that assistance by donating the same amount to five LGBTQ organizations, saying that once he has done so, all further donations will go directly toward his medical expenses.

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