Transgender state employee sues over exclusion of gender transition surgery from health care plan

The plaintiff works for the state Department of Human Services.

  • Laura Benshoff/WHYY

(Harrisburg) — A transgender state employee is suing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in federal court.

He alleges the state’s health care plan violated his civil rights by excluding gender transition surgery from its coverage.

The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, works for Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services.

In 2016, his doctors said that he needed surgery to relieve the anguish of having a female body that did not match his gender identity.

However, Doe was repeatedly denied coverage for this surgery under his state healthcare plan, according to the complaint.

At the same time, the complaint points out, officials in Governor Wolf’s administration said such exclusions violated both state and federal law.

Doe says he became physically ill and had thoughts of suicide as a result of this discrimination. Eventually, he was able to undergo the procedure.

Now, he’s suing for $150,000 and for those involved in making these determinations go through sensitivity training.

The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.


Keystone Crossroads is a statewide reporting collaborative of WITF, WPSU and WESA, led by WHYY. This story originally appeared at

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