Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

“NBC 3 Syracuse: Oswego County Agrees to Settlement Over Health Insurance Coverage for Transgender Workers”

November 21, 2017

As published by NBC 3 Syracuse, on November 20, 2017.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday that a settlement has been made ensuring transgender Oswego County employees and retirees will have access to essential health care coverage through their employer-provided health plan.

As part of the settlement, Oswego County has agreed to eliminate a categorical exclusion on expenses related to gender transition from its plan. It has also agreed to offer an affirmative benefit for treatments and procedures for gender transition and ensure training and compliance with anti-discrimination laws going forward, according to the attorney general’s office.

“It’s simple: employers have an obligation to cover health care for transgender employees. Doing so is not just required by law — it also makes clear that all employees are valued and supported, which benefits everyone in the workplace,” Schneiderman said. “I’m pleased that our settlement with Oswego County ensures that all of its employees and retirees — including those who are transgender — have access to the essential health insurance coverage they need.”

The lawsuit stemmed from an investigation of the county’s health coverage plan that began in June. According to Schneiderman’s office, the plan contained a broad categorical exclusion for “Services or Supplies connected to sex change Surgery, transsexualism, gender dysphoria, sexual reassignment or change, or any treatment of gender identity disorders, including medications, implants, hormone therapy, surgery, medical or psychiatric treatment.”

The attorney general’s office found that this categorical exclusion violated a number of laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New York State Human Rights Law, which prohibit employers from discrimination in the provision of benefits based on an employee’s gender identity and expression, transgender status and disability.

In addition, Scheiderman’s office found the county’s categorical exclusion of treatments for gender dysphoria violated the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which prohibits health plans from setting requirements and limitations on mental health benefits that are more restrictive than requirements and limitations applying to medical and surgical benefits.

Under terms of the settlement, Oswego County has agreed to:

• Eliminate the categorical exclusion for expenses related to gender transition;

• Implement a new benefit to employees and retirees covering treatments, procedures, and prescriptions for gender transition, including the development of new medical coverage policy, guidelines, and other implementing requirements for the benefit;

• Develop and provide annual training for County employees, and employees of its benefits administrator, concerning the new benefit; and

• Retain records, and monitor for complaints concerning implementation of the new benefit, for the next five years.