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Oct. 1, 2022

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PeaceHealth, ACLU settle transgender lawsuit

Case filed against Vancouver-based health care organization in 2017; policy updated

By , Columbian Business Editor

Vancouver-based PeaceHealth and the ACLU of Washington have settled a lawsuit involving coverage of transgender health care services under PeaceHealth’s employee medical plan, PeaceHealth announced Friday.

Enstad v. PeaceHealth was filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington in October 2017. In 2016, prior to the filing of the Enstad lawsuit, PeaceHealth began the process of updating its employee medical plan. Effective Jan. 1, 2017, PeaceHealth’s employee medical plan was changed to cover medically necessary transgender surgery as determined under Aetna’s Gender Reassignment Surgery policy, a nationally-recognized guideline.

“PeaceHealth is committed to an inclusive health care environment for all and does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or any other basis prohibited by applicable federal, state, or local law,” the Catholic health care system said in a news release. “Throughout our 127-year heritage, we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed the discrimination lawsuit against PeaceHealth on behalf of Cheryl Enstad of Bellingham and her son, Paxton Enstad, 17.

She said she and her husband eventually took out a second mortgage and dipped into Paxton’s college fund to pay more than $10,000 for his surgery.

At a news conference after the lawsuit was filed, Cheryl Enstad said, “PeaceHealth was telling me my son was undeserving of medical care simply because he’s transgender. It’s heartbreaking. It is not fair.” The lawsuit cites violations of the federal Affordable Care Act as well as state anti-discrimination law.

PeaceHealth is a nonprofit based in east Vancouver and operates 10 medical centers in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

In 2014, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler told health insurance carriers in Washington that the carriers regulated by his office must cover such transgender care if they also cover medically necessary care for others.

Cheryl Enstad said in the lawsuit that she was a medical social worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham from 1996 until April 2017.

Columbian Business Editor

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