Maine Human Rights Commission Votes to Dismiss Transgender Student’s Discrimination Complaint Against USM

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The Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on Nov. 7 voted to dismiss a Woolwhich transgender student’s complaint of discrimination against the University of Southern Maine (USM).

That complaint alleged that USM discriminated against Ann Casavant by offering an optional health insurance product to students that did not initially cover transgender health care services, including an Adam’s Apple reduction surgery and voice feminization treatments.

At the Nov. 7 meeting, Casavant’s mother and attorney reiterated the case against USM.

USM’s attorney, Deirdre Salsich, restated USM’s rationale for appealing MHRC investigator Courtney Burne’s original conclusion, which found that USM had discriminated against Casavant.

“The University of Maine System is not an insurance company and should not be held liable for the actions of a corporate third party that has no legal affiliation with the University of Maine System,” said Salsich.

“The real issue at hand in this case is an insurance company’s initial denial of coverage for certain medical procedures. The University of Maine system is not an insurance company, the university is not responsible for the actions of an unaffiliated insurance company, and it defies logic that it would be held liable for the actions of that separate third party,” she said.

Anthem initially only covered the Adam’s Apple reduction, also known as a tracheal shave, and did not cover the voice feminization procedures. Later, after Casavant appealed the coverage decision, the company did pay for both procedures.

Susan Casavant, the complaint’s mother, addressed the commission on her child’s behalf.

“I am not an attorney. We couldn’t afford an attorney after scraping together $50,000 to pay for our daughter’s medical expenses out of pocket. We have subsequently been reimbursed at approximately 80 percent after a two and half year fight with the insurance company,” she said.

“We live on fixed income, so it’s pick and choose where you want to put your money,” she said.

She claimed the coverage for the gender transition surgery and treatment, which she called a life threatening matter, were illegally denied by Anthem.

“The university disregarded my daughter’s needs and rights and put her life at risk and caused great stress to our family,” she said.

Commissioner Edward David moved to find that USM discriminated against Casavant on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, but his motion failed to find another commissioner member to support it.

Commissioner Jefferson Ashby moved to dismiss Casavant’s complaint, and the motion prevailed, with only David voting against and Commissioner Mark Walker abstaining.

All current members of the MHRC were appointed by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

Whether insurance companies must be required by law to cover gender transition related surgeries, many of which have previously been regarded as cosmetic surgeries, is an issue that will likely surface in the upcoming session of the State Legislature.

You can watch the portion of the meeting here:

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