MN: Lawsuit alleges gender identity discrimination by HealthPartners, Essentia


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A mother in Ada, Minn., just north of the Fargo-Moorhead area, is suing HealthPartners and Essentia Health for violating Title VII, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and the Affordable Care Act when medically necessary health care was denied for her son. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.

Brittany Tovar works for Essentia West and has employer sponsored health insurance through HealthPartners. When her teenage son started to undergo gender confirmation medical care, Tovar’s health plan categorically denied all coverage. Both medications and surgery were denied under the health plan.

The lawsuit filed on Jan. 15 states:

Because of the Plan’s categorical exclusion of “[s]ervices and/or surgery for gender reassignment,” Tovar’s transgender son has been denied insurance coverage for health care that his providers have deemed medically necessary. Tovar and her family continue to suffer financial and emotional harm due to the Plan’s discriminatory exclusion of coverage for medical care needed by Tovar’s son.

The suit also lays out the alleges violations of state and federal law:

Title VII bars sex discrimination with respect to an employee’s “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). This includes discrimination in the terms of an employer-sponsored health care plan such as the Essentia Health Employee Medical Plan (“the Plan”).
Essentia violated Title VII’s bar on sex discrimination, and specifically the bar on discrimination based on gender identity, by categorically excluding any coverage for “[s]ervices and/or surgery for gender reassignment” from the Plan.
By categorically excluding any coverage for “[s]ervices and/or surgery for gender reassignment” from the Plan, Essentia violated the MHRA’s bar on sex discrimination, and specifically the bar on discrimination based on gender identity referenced in Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 44 (barring discrimination based on “having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness”).
HealthPartners discriminated against Plaintiff in violation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act by serving as the third party administrator for the Essentia Health Employee Medical Plan and enforcing the Plan’s discriminatory exclusion of any “[s]ervices and/or surgery for gender reassignment.”

“I was really disappointed with my employer,” Tovar told the Star Tribune. “It’s hard coming to work, and my employer considers my son a second-class citizen.”

“It’s not even about the money,” Tovar said. “I’m trying to change [the coverage] and make access to health care for transgender [people] as it should be. To have a blanket exclusion for transgender is against the law. It’s discriminatory.”

Tovar’s case was filed by the St. Paul-based Gender Justice. The case also got a boost from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which reviewed the case and found that Tovar “was denied medical related services for her child, as a beneficiary, under [Essentia’s] sponsored Health Insurance Plan, based on the child’s gender identity” adding that there is “reasonable cause to believe that [Essentia’s] Health Insurance Plans exclude coverage of services for gender reassignment, including surgery or prescription medications; and as such, they discriminate against individuals, as a class, based on sex in violation of Title VII.”

The EEOC issued Tovar a Notice of Right to Sue.

Here’s the filing:

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


  1. This should not have happened in Minnesota as The LGBTQI has been treated pretty much fairly, for many years now. This Bigoted exclusion clause should cost them dearly as Lupron is essential to Trans people to eliminate difficulties of the Body in the future. It saves on surgery and many other needs. I hope this is taken care of sooner than later for the Young Trans person, as this is a very cruel act they are negotiating.

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