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N4T Investigators: UA spends tens of thousands defending transgender healthcare lawsuit

TUCSON – The University of Arizona has spent $52,386.10 defending a lawsuit because the state does not include transgender surgeries in its insurance plan.

Russell Toomey is a UA professor and a transgender man who wants a hysterectomy.

Molly Brizgys is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and is representing Toomey in the case. She said most states offer this type of coverage, and Arizona is an “outlier.”

“We wish that the state of Arizona would put its resources toward providing the medically necessary care for transgender employees,” Brizgys said, “rather than defending this discriminatory and unconstitutional exclusion.”

Attorneys for the Arizona Board of Regents wrote in a court document, “Defendants do not object to offering the insurance coverage requested by Plaintiff in the Complaint.”

University attorneys said they are limited by the health benefits chosen by the Arizona Department of Administration, according to court documents.

“Defendants have previously urged ADOA to remove the types of coverage exclusions requested by Plaintiff in the Complaint, but ADOA has not eliminated all exclusions,” university attorneys wrote in the document.

The most common type of hysterectomy cost about $38,000 in 2009, according to a publication in the Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons.

Brizgys said the state of Wisconsin recently included these types of operations in its health plan, and it only cost about $300,000.

“There’s lots more litigation and discovery that will be unfolding over the next several months,” Brizgys said, “and so I think it’s likely that the costs will continue.”

When the state’s Risk Management department is not providing coverage, universities have to pay for their own legal fees, according to ABOR spokesperson Sarah Harper.

The ADOA, ABOR and UA declined to comment on the case because of the ongoing lawsuit.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson – KVOA.

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