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Commission finds UMaine System discriminated by not covering student's gender-affirming care

The University of Southern Maine campus is seen in January 2019.
Troy R. Bennett
Bangor Daily News
The University of Southern Maine campus is seen in January 2019.

The Maine Human Rights Commission says that the University of Maine System discriminated against a transgender student by not covering gender-affirming care under a system health plan.

The commission ruled in favor of a University of Southern Maine student, who filed the complaint in 2020 after being denied coverage for the procedure under an optional plan offered by the system. Lawyers for the student argued that the health plan explicitly prohibited the care.

The system contends that the insurance company — not the university — was in charge of any coverage decisions, and that the student was ultimately able to receive coverage after she filed appeals.

But Commissioner Edward David disagreed, saying the system could have demanded the plan include gender-affirming care.

"They negotiate this policy. They say, we have health centers. We want a policy that covers health centers on campus when a student comes in with mono. We want a policy that covers an athlete when he breaks his ankle, and goes on for years, with unlimited coverage. And they could have negotiated this," David said.

The commission's deputy counsel, Kit Thomson Crossman, pointed out that even after the system was notified that the procedures weren't covered, they failed to follow through with the insurance company.

"So there is no argument right now about, well, it would have cost too much. Or it would have been prohibited in some other way. Because they don't know. They never asked. Even though they were on notice that the complainant had been denied these procedures, they didn't even ask if it was even possible," Crossman said.

In a statement, the university system said that it values each of its students, and looks forward to the opportunity to resolve this matter.