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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 26, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 26
Federal healthcare insurance can't exclude Trans care, OPM rules
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Federal healthcare insurance can't exclude Trans care, OPM rules

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced June 23 that healthcare insurance for federal employees cannot have blanket exclusions for Transgender-related care.

The policy change expands on a 2014 ruling that OPM would no longer bar Trans-related insurance coverage. Now insurance providers who cover federal employees will be required to cover transition care.

According to HRC, only three providers - AETNA, Kaiser Permanente and the Foreign Service Benefit Plan - provided transition-related care to federal employees as of the start of this year.

OPM spokesperson Samuel Schumach told the Washington Blade that his agency had informed federal healthcare providers that such coverage must be made available for plans beginning next year.

'Earlier today, OPM informed health insurance carriers participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program that for 2016 health plans, we are prohibiting the general exclusion of services, drugs or supplies related to gender transition,' Schumach said. 'Our carrier letter helps clarify OPM's earlier guidance recognizing [the] evolving professional consensus on the medical needs of transgender individuals.

'In preparation for the Federal Health Benefits open season this fall, OPM continues to work hard to provide Federal employees with a broad selection of plan options at reasonable prices,' Schumach continued.

'Last year, OPM removed the requirement that FEHB plans exclude services, drugs or supplies directly related to transition. By the start of 2015, at least one FEHB plan in every state offered coverage for a broad range of gender transition-related services, including hormone therapy, counseling and surgery.'

White House spokesperson Jeff Tiller said President Obama supports the change but didn't respond to a request to comment further on the matter.

HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy praised the Obama administration and OPM for making the change.

'This critical change is a significant step forward in the right direction - one that will help our nation's transgender civil servants gain access to many of the basic and vitally important healthcare services that they need,' Stacy said. 'HRC applauds OPM Director Katherine Archuleta for her strong leadership on this important issue.'

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the policy change is 'a huge step' toward ending insurance discrimination against Transgender people, but she warned that insurance carriers might still try to discriminate.

'With today's announcement, transgender federal employees can now access health care that is so fundamental to their well-being and, in the long-term, will make transgender employees happier and more productive workers,' Keisling said. 'We know that plans will still try to exclude some necessary services, and we will keep pushing to eliminate all insurance discrimination against trans people.'

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