Debevoise Achieves Landmark Settlement in Transgender Rights Suit in Oregon

2 March 2020

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Meyer Stephenson firm, have achieved a landmark civil rights settlement on behalf of Christina Ketcham, a transgender woman who was denied insurance coverage for medically necessary facial feminization surgery.

For years, Ms. Ketcham has experienced significant distress from the incongruence between her female gender identity and her typically masculine facial features, which has exacerbated her gender dysphoria. Consistent with the consensus of the medical community, Ms. Ketcham’s treating physicians determined that facial feminization surgery is medically necessary to treat her gender dysphoria. Ms. Ketcham’s health insurance provider repeatedly denied her requests for coverage because her health insurance policy categorically excluded coverage for facial feminization procedures for transgender women. On July 18, 2019, Ms. Ketcham brought suit for violations of Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws and the Oregon Constitution against Clatsop County, her employer; CityCounty Insurance Services, the public entity that provided Ms. Ketcham’s health insurance benefits; and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, the insurance plan administrator.

After settlement negotiations, Clatsop County and CityCounty Insurance Services agreed to pay $345,000 in damages, including $40,000 to cover Ms. Ketcham’s facial feminization surgery. Clatsop also agreed to place Ms. Ketcham on administrative leave with full pay until she reached retirement age in June 2020. The discrimination claims against Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon are still pending before the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for the County of Multnomah.

To read more about the case, see the National Center for Lesbian Rights press release. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

The Debevoise team is led by litigation associates Morgan A. Davis and Justin R. Rassi, supervised by litigation partner Jyotin Hamid, and includes associates William Mattessich and Samuel Rosh, and law clerks Geoffrey Curfman and Joshua Goldman.