Georgia county spends $1.2m on private lawyers to avoid paying for trans woman’s healthcare

A Pride flag waves over the US House.

A county in the US state of Georgia reportedly spent at least $1.2 million just to prevent paying for a trans woman’s gender-affirming care.

Officials in Houston County Georgia deemed the affirming healthcare for deputy sheriff Anna Lange was too expensive for it to cover – but spent more than a million dollars on private lawyers to prevent her treatment.

Lange had worked for the Houston County Sheriff’s Office for over 10 years when she came out to colleagues in 2017. She then requested gender-affirmation surgery under her health insurance plan.

After being told by officials her plan would not cover the related surgeries, she appealed and was denied a right to care several times.

During that time, county sheriff Cullen Talton reportedly told Lange that he thought she was joking when she came out and, upon being told that she was serious, said he didn’t “believe in” being transgender.

According to a report by ProPublica, Lange then began to use her own savings and retirement fund to pay for chest surgery treatment in 2018, but found it hard to afford sexual-reassignment surgery (SRS).

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After trying and failing several times to petition for the county to include gender-affirming care in its healthcare coverage, she called once again for the restrictions to be scrapped in 2019 at a board of commissioners’ meeting.

“The sheriff might not endorse my transition, but as long as I work hard for him and maintain a high level of efficiency for Houston County, that’s what is most important,” she said.

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“I pay the same taxes and premiums as every other Houston County citizen, yet I do not receive equal coverage in medical care.

“Gender dysphoria is recognised by all major medical associations as being medically necessary,” she continued. “I’m asking for you all tonight to vote to remove this exclusion.”

After being once again denied the equal healthcare she deserved, Lange filed a suit against the county for employment discrimination.

After working with attorneys in a similar case in 2019 – in which a transgender employee successfully sued Georgia University for $100,000 in damages and access to gender-affirming care – Lange chose to sue the county for being subjected to “inferior treatment”.

After a year of legal wrangling between Lange’s lawyers and the county, things began to look up when the Supreme Court ruled that employment discrimination based on transgender status was illegal in 2020.

Eventually, after almost three years, the court ruled in her favour, awarding her $60,000 for “emotional pain and mental anguish”.

But she didn’t see her money until March this year after an appeal by the county prolonged the process even further.

Following a ruling by judge Marc Treadwell that Houston County was “irresponsible” for its attempt to misrepresent the cost of Lange’s procedure, they were forced to pay damages.

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It was later revealed that the county had paid $1.2 million to fight the case, compared to the estimated $25,600 that Lange’s surgery would have cost.

The cost of gender-affirming care that Lange requested represents less than three per cent of what Houston County spent battling against her claim.

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