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Bill would bar Alaska gender confirmation surgery coverage

January 7, 2019
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 file photo State Rep. George Rauscher, a Republican from Sutton, left, is shown before the start of the Alaska legislative session at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. Rauscher has proposed barring the state from paying for gender confirmation surgery and limiting what is taught in sex education classes. The measures from Rauscher were among more than 40 bills and proposed constitutional amendments released Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, ahead of the new legislative session, which starts Jan. 15.(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen,File)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A conservative Alaska lawmaker has proposed barring the state from paying for gender confirmation surgery and limiting what is taught in sex education classes.

The measures from Republican Rep. George Rauscher of Sutton were among more than 40 bills and proposed constitutional amendments released Monday ahead of the new legislative session, which starts Jan. 15.

Among other proposals: Legislation from Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage to pay residents the amount they missed out on when Alaska Permanent Fund dividends were capped the last three years.

House Bill 5 , from Rauscher, would bar the state from paying for or offering as a benefit insurance coverage for gender confirmation surgery or related drug therapy. Rauscher could not immediately be reached for comment.

Last year, a transgender legislative librarian sued the state, alleging discrimination, saying she was denied coverage for medically necessary surgical treatments.

The federal case, which is pending, said a state insurance plan excluded coverage for surgical treatment for gender dysphoria and that the woman had to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for health care expenses not covered by her plan.

One of her attorneys, Peter Renn, called Rauscher’s bill dangerous.

“The medical community overwhelmingly recognizes that transition-related care is medically necessary and can even be lifesaving,” Renn said.

The lawsuit said the state, in 2018, removed an earlier exclusion of coverage for transition-related hormone therapy and counseling in the AlaskaCare plan.

Attorneys for the state, in court filings, acknowledged the state does not provide coverage for transition-related surgical treatment under that plan but denied the plan discriminates.

House Bill 7 , also from Rauscher, would restrict what could be taught in sex education classes.

The measure calls for a curriculum that promotes abstinence. But it says the curriculum could not teach on or advocate “the intricacies of sexual intercourse,” use of contraception, gender expression or homosexuality.

Jessica Cler, Alaska state director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said given rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, the state should not build barriers to comprehensive sex education.

It’s unclear how the proposals might fare. The House has struggled to organize a majority ahead of the session. Alaska has a Republican governor and Republican-led Senate.

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