By Bruce Vielmetti

A lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's rule denying Medicaid coverage for medically necessary transgender surgeries has become a class action that could benefit hundreds of affected residents.

An estimated 5,000 transgender Wisconsin residents are enrolled in Medicaid. But only some of them suffer from gender dysphoria, and only a portion of those would desire gender-confirming surgeries and meet the medically necessary threshold for coverage of the treatment. Gender dysphoria refers to the range of conditions suffered by those who identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth.

Last summer, a federal judge in Madison issued a preliminary injunction ordering the state to cover surgeries for the two original plaintiffs, Cody Flack of Green Bay and Sara Ann Makenzie of Baraboo. 

Since then, two more transgender women, Marie Kelly, 38, of Milwaukee and Courtney Sherwin, 35, of Janesville, have joined the case as representatives of the class.

In a new order Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Conley certified the class action status of the case and extended the injunction to cover anyone in the class, pending the final outcome of the lawsuit.