The Biden administration is using Trump-era policy to approve the expansion of health care for transgender Coloradans, forcing many of the state’s private insurers to cover gender-based coverage.
Former President Donald Trump’s 2018 policy allows states to redefine the essential health insurance benefits insurers must cover under the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, the Biden government approved Colorado’s application to add gender-based care to the guaranteed benefits of its health plans.
The move will force individual and small group insurers to cover transitional procedures, including hormone therapy, breast augmentation and laser hair removal, from January 1, 2023.
Federal officials and Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis, one of two openly LGBTQ governors, said they hoped the measure would serve as a model to expand gender-based care in other states. The Biden administration also cited discriminatory barriers that transgender Americans often face when seeking transitional care, often referred to as cosmetic.
“Health care should be available to everyone; By ensuring that transgender people have access to recommended care, we are one step closer to that reality, ”Minister of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said in a statement on Tuesday. “I am proud to stand by Colorado’s side in breaking down barriers that have historically made it difficult for transgender people to access health insurance and medical care.”
Medicaid covers gender-based care in more than a dozen states, including Colorado. But only a handful of states, including Massachusetts and Washington, have policies similar to the new Colorado measure requiring many private insurers to cover transitional care.
As a result, nearly half of transgender Americans – including 54 percent of transsexuals – say that their health insurers only covered part of their gender-based coverage or that they had no providers on the network, according to a survey by the Center for American Progress. The report found that 46 percent of trans respondents and 56 percent of color trans factions were denied gender-affirming coverage by their insurers.
Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, director of the National LGBTQIA + Health Education Center at Boston’s Fenway Institute, who works directly with transgender patients, applauded the Biden government’s new move.
“What we have learned the hard way is that private insurers and employers will not necessarily have these fair guidelines on how to cover medically necessary gender-based care without the government enforcing such expectations,” he said.
Keuroghlian said when Massachusetts similarly expanded coverage for transgender patients in 2014, it had to change its schedule to keep up with demand.
“We have seen a remarkable increase in transsexual and heterogeneous parishioners using gender-based care because they did not have to pay out of pocket,” he said.
Many health insurers and lawmakers refer to transitional procedures as cosmetic, but many of the country’s leading health institutions consider them vital.
“In our opinion there is no debate,” said Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, the first and only openly LGBTQ board member of the American Medical Association. “These transitional offers and gender equitable care for transgender patients are medically necessary. Science has shown that. “
Trans advocates have also long argued that transition-related practices can help trans people integrate more easily into society and avoid targeted attacks.
“We are trying to eradicate trauma and discrimination in our lives,” said Lourdes Ashley Hunter, founder and chief executive of the Trans Women of Color Collective advocacy group. “And if that means I need to get facial feminization so that I won’t be harassed when I go to the store or market, and I do so freely and safely, then so be it.”
The Biden government’s approval of Colorado’s health application is in line with the president’s election promise expand medical care for transgender Americans. It also follows the government’s decision in May to reintroduce federal anti-discrimination protection for transpatients, which the Trump administration had withdrawn.
Conversely, some Republican-led states have attempted to restrict access to care for Trans-Americans.
In April, Arkansas became the first state to ban health care providers from offering trans youths gender-based care. Similar bills have been introduced in dozens of other states, including Texas.
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