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Idaho health agency sued by transgender women for discrimination

Idaho Federal Building United States Courthouse (2)
Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio

Two young transgender women are suing state health officials after they say the department of health and welfare discriminated against them because of their gender identity.

The two women, only identified in the lawsuit by their initials, are 18 and 21, and both are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program.

They said the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which oversees the program alongside the federal government, is refusing to pay for gender confirmation surgery.

The women claim the state has refused to let them appeal their denial of coverage or has refused to issue a decision at all to authorize or deny the surgery.

According to the lawsuit first reported by the Idaho Capital Sun, the state deems the procedure “cosmetic,” even though the women’s doctors say it’s medically necessary to treat their gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person’s gender doesn’t align with their sex assigned at birth. It can lead to significant mental distress and even self-harm.

One of the women was admitted to two mental health facilities “…after she attempted to take her life because of [redacted] due to not wanting to live in the world where she could not be true herself.”

According to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ advocacy group, 26 states explicitly cover transition-related care through Medicaid, while nine ban it.

Idaho has no explicit law to cover or ban the procedure, according to the group.

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction barring Idaho from withholding access to the surgery for all transgender people enrolled in Medicaid

An IDHW spokesperson told the Sun they couldn’t comment on pending litigation. They didn’t immediately respond to a request from Boise State Public Radio.

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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