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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 50
New York to require insurers to cover Transgender Healthcare
Section One
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New York to require insurers to cover Transgender Healthcare

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued guidance to health insurance companies on December 11, that bar them from discriminating against Transgender individuals by denying them medically necessary treatment.

Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Director Dru Levasseur said, What a week for transgender New Yorkers! Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration sent a letter to private insurers in the state that they cannot discriminate against transgender policyholders and that they are required to provide coverage of medically necessary health care for transgender people under New York state law.

This news comes just days after the New York City Council passed a bill that made it easier for Transgender New Yorkers to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates to reflect who they are.

We applaud the state of New York for making it clear that insurance companies can no longer deny transgender individuals the medical and mental health care that is routinely provided to non-transgender policy holders, said Levasseur.

According to Levasseur, this is life-saving news for many Transgender New Yorkers.

New York is the tenth jurisdiction to mandate Transgender medical services joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.

Last June, Lambda Legal and other organizations also worked with the Cuomo administration to change the New York State policy to eliminate the surgery requirement for Transgender people seeking to change the sex designation on their birth certificates.

Transition-related health care can be medically necessary, said Levasseur. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health have confirmed this, and courts have affirmed their conclusion. We are glad that a growing number of states are addressing the widespread discriminatory practice of excluding this type of health care in insurance plans.

In 2013, Lambda Legal successfully filed a lawsuit against the state of Oregon on behalf of Alec Esquivel, a Transgender Oregon public employee who was denied coverage for a medically necessary procedure that would have been covered for non-Transgender employees.

These steps are significant, but the progress is incremental at best and transgender people continue to face significant barriers to accessing medical services, said Levasseur. To date only five jurisdictions have extended Medicaid coverage to transition-related medical services. Given that most transgender people face high rates of poverty, we urge New York to continue taking strides to grant transgender people access to health care and remove the discriminatory exclusion of transgender health care from its Medicaid program.

If Transgender New Yorkers have trouble getting medical care on an equal basis they can contact the Lambda Legal help desk at 212-809-8585 x 235 or visit http://www.lambdalegal.org/help.

We remain encouraged by recent progress, but we are also well aware that much remains to be done, said Levasseur. Lambda Legal will continue to look for opportunities to expand health care access for transgender people through both policy work and impact litigation because lives depend on it.

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