February 3, 2017 at 4:05 pm EST | by Staff reports
Ark. university suspends trans health benefits
Trans-inclusive health benefits, gay news, Washington Blade

University of Arkansas (Photo by Brandonrush; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Trans-inclusive health benefits offered to spouses under a system offered at the University of Arkansas have been suspended, the Daily Beast reports.

Teri Wright, a trans Arkansas resident, told the Daily Beast she got an e-mail on Jan. 24 notifying her that “the university will suspend gender dysphoria coverage” pending the outcome of a Dec. 31 preliminary injunction against an Affordable Care Act regulation that prohibits discrimination in health care for being transgender, the Beast reports.

Wright was planning to have surgery but told the Daily Beast she won’t be able to have it before the coverage ends on March 6.

“It really sucks for them to say they’re gonna cover it and then pull the rug out from underneath my feet like this after I’ve already made plans to move forward,” the Daily Beast quoted her as having said.

In response to a request for comment on the suspension of the benefits, University of Arkansas System Communications Director Nate Hinkel sent the Daily Beast the text of the email that was sent to employees last week. He did not immediately respond to follow-up questions but made it clear that “this decision was not made on a campus level, but here at the UA system office.”

The preliminary injunction — issued by a federal judge in Texas on the last day of 2016 — does not prohibit the University of Arkansas System from continuing to offer transgender-inclusive health benefits of its own accord. As the UA System email to employees stated, the preliminary injunction “prohibits (the U.S. Department of) Health and Human Services from enforcing regulations addressing gender identity and the coverage of treatment for gender dysphoria.” In other words, the injunction simply gives the UA System more legal leeway to justify suspending the coverage, the Beast article notes.

Justine Turnage, vice president for the Fayetteville, Ark.-based organization Transgender Equality Network, thinks it’s telling that the UA System would back out of offering the coverage so quickly after the preliminary injunction was issued against the ACA regulation.

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