ACLU Files Lawsuit To Overturn Medicaid Surgery Ban

May 31, 2019

The ACLU of Iowa has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a law that denies transgender Iowans on Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgery.

The lawsuit targets a provision that was passed by lawmakers in the health budget bill in April. It amends the state’s Civil Rights Act to allow organizations using public insurance dollars, including Medicaid, to opt out of covering the procedure.


The provision was passed just weeks after a state Supreme Court decision that struck down a ban on using Medicaid dollars for transition-related surgery under the state's Civil Rights Act.


ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis-Austen says the provision was in response to the Supreme Court decision.

"Gov. Reynolds herself in signing the bill made and expressed proclamations that the purpose was to return to the state's policy the way that it was for the past two decades before the Good decisions and specifically referenced that decision," Bettis-Austen said.


The suit was filed on behalf of LGBTQ-rights group One Iowa and two transgender Iowans.



"By taking these extreme steps to refuse healthcare to transgender Iowans, Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa legislature have ignored the expertise of leading medical professionals in the name of discrimination," said Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, the executive director of One Iowa.


Medical associations such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have ruled the gender-affirming surgery to be medically necessary.


Reynolds signed the health bill into effect on May 3.


Patrick Garrett, the governor's spokesperson, released a statement saying the state will defend the provision.


"We will work with the Iowa Attorney General's Office to defend this narrow provision clarifying that Iowa’s Civil Rights Act does not require taxpayer dollars to pay for sex reassignment and other similar surgeries - the state’s position for years."