Skip to main content

Mom sues employer for not covering son's gender reassignment treatment

  • Author:
  • Updated:

A woman from northwest Minnesota is suing her employer and health insurance provider for denying coverage for her teenage child's gender reassignment surgery.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court this week, Brittany Tovar of Halstad, Minnesota, accuses her employer – Duluth-based Essentia Health – of discrimination for "categorically excluding any coverage" for gender reassignment services/surgery in the employee medical plan run by insurer HealthPartners.

Tovar, who has worked for Essentia as a nurse and family nurse practitioner since September 2010, has a son who in November 2014 was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, identifying as a male, according to the suit.

Since treatment for gender reassignment was excluded under the Essentia health plan, Tovar faces paying the full cost out of her own pocket, or the prospect of her son's condition going untreated, the lawsuit says.

She wrote to her employer explaining the "serious repercussions" for her son if he was not able to access necessary care to medically transition from a female to a male, with gender dysphoria associated with high instances of anxiety, distress and depression (more on the condition below).

Essentia Health told BringMeTheNews it has not yet received the lawsuit, and that it "does not comment on pending litigation."

Mother told medication would cost $9,000

According to the suit, the plan denied coverage for a medication called Lupron, designed to temporarily suspend menstruation, meaning Tovar would have had to pay $9,000 out of pocket. She could not afford this, so her son did not receive the prescribed treatment.

He was then prescribed Androderm, which Tovar paid for after again Essentia denied coverage. It later agreed as a one-off to reimburse her, though it has not changed its policy denying coverage for gender reassignment treatment, the suit says.

She also sought pre-authorization from HealthPartners for her son to have gender reassignment surgery, but was once again told it would not be covered.

Tovar is suing Essentia Health for what she argues is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and HealthPartners for a violation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Star Tribune reports that Tovar's son, Reid Tovar Olson, had his name changed three weeks ago from Madison Olson as part of his gender transition.

His mother told the newspaper she was "disappointed" with Essentia Health, adding: "It's hard coming to work, and my employer considers my son a second-class citizen."

Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is a recognized condition where someone's physical gender traits is in conflict with the gender they identify with – you can read more about it here.

It is generally treated with mental health counseling, hormone therapy and eventually – if it is determined "medically necessary" – gender reassignment surgery, which coverage for was denied in the Essentia health plan, according to the lawsuit.

Last month we reported how the state of Minnesota is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union because its public health insurance programs don't cover gender reassignment surgery.

This coverage is denied even though the federal Medicare program covers all medically necessary gender reassignment surgery, while the ACLU says that private insurance plans regulated by Minnesota also offer coverage.

The Huffington Post reported in September that new federal regulations are being pushed that would forbid health insurance companies from excluding gender transition treatments.

They would give transgender people the legal right to make civil rights claims against insurers, doctors and hospitals who deny coverage or necessary care.

Next Up

Dean Evason

Tempers flare as Wild hammer Canadiens

Montreal was anything but polite after the Wild picked up an 8-2 victory.

Blaine VFW video screengrab crop N West Twitter

Authorities now looking into MN lawmaker's report of assault

Video shows Rep. Nolan West being grabbed and pushed out of a public event.

TajPharmaImages WIkimedia Commons ivermectin

COVID treatments: Essentia Health to help test 3 existing meds

The clinical trial includes the much-discussed drug ivermectin.

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 3.48.57 PM

Suspect crashes into Minneapolis snow plow, fires shots at plow driver

The plow driver was pulled to the side of the road when the incident happened.

cold Minneapolis

Coldest day of the winter is possible this week in Minnesota

An air temp of -30F isn't out of the question too far from the metro.

polley freeborn county jail roster jan 2022 resize

District fires school counselor accused of sexually assaulting student

He's been charged with felony criminal sexual conduct.

Moorhead family

Authorities pinpoint source of CO that killed family of 7

The victims, all members of Hernandez-Pinto family, were found dead in a Moorhead home.

polymet mining

Court issues mixed ruling on PolyMet, orders more analysis on water permit

The court, however, overruled several challenges to the permit.

SPPD Kua person of interest 01-24-2022

Police release images of woman driving stolen Audi that had puppy inside

It's not clear whether she was involved in the vehicle theft.

J R Jones - Anoka County Jail 2021.10.16 - Resize crop

Fatal hit-and-run driver can avoid prison time with plea deal

He was charged with striking and killing a 56-year-old who was walking her dog.

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 11.21.49 AM

Alex Rodriguez: 'I'm not a Packers fan'

He was at Lambeau screaming "Cheese!" and "Let's go!" during the playoff game against the 49ers.