Quick Hit: California bans insurance discrimination against trans* patients

As of yesterday, insurance companies in California can no longer discriminate against trans* patients, an essential step forward in light of the tremendous health disparities between trans* and cis people in the U.S. The Transgender Law Center reports:

California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has issued guidance clarifying the obligations of California’s health plans under the Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act (see below)  In a groundbreaking directive to health plans, the DMHC confirmed that California’s Insurance Non-Discrimination Act of 2006, authored by former Assemblymember Paul Koretz, guarantees all people the right to access coverage for medically necessary care regardless of their gender identity or gender expression. The directive also provides that patients who are denied coverage can appeal the decision for review by the Department.

The DMHC directive applies to HMOs and PPOs regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care. In 2012, the Department of Insurance issued non-discrimination regulations with similar protections for health insurance regulated by the Department of Insurance. Combined, this means that all California health plans and insurers cannot arbitrarily deny medically necessary services provided to other policy holders or members simply because the patient is transgender.

While Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez stressed that proper implementation of the Insurance Non-Discrimination Act is “a simple matter of fairness and equality,” the Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center stressed that this directive isn’t just about abstract justice: the stakes are literally life and death.

“This one letter will save lives,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “For years, transgender Californians have been denied coverage of basic care merely because of who we are. Discriminatory insurance exclusions put transgender people and our families at risk for health problems and financial hardship. Now we can finally get the care we need.”

A 2008 study conducted by Transgender Law Center found that an alarmingly high rate of transgender patients were denied coverage for essential health care. 15% were outright denied gender-specific care such as pap-smears or prostate exams just because they were transgender.

Which state will step up next? You can read the TLC’s full statement here.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is a senior editor at Feministing.com and student at Yale Law School. Alexandra also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. At Yale Law, Alexandra studies antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. After graduation, she will represent girls facing discriminatory suspensions and expulsions as a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center. Most importantly, Alexandra is the mommy to Margot, a tiny pomchi rescue from North Carolina

Alexandra Brodsky is a senior editor at Feministing.com and student at Yale Law School.

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