The U.S. Office of Personnel Management issued guidance Friday stating that the agency is removing the requirement that insurance carriers offering health insurance to federal employees through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program exclude coverage for care related to gender transition for the 2015 plan year. Though the new policy allows insurance companies to drop the exclusion, they are not required to do so.
In the letter to FEHB insurers, OPM acknowledges the “evolving professional consensus that treatment is considered medically necessary” for many transgender people. This statement is consistent with decades of research and practice demonstrating that access to transition-related care significantly improves the health of transgender people and that exclusions blocking coverage put patients’ lives at risk and undermine the ability of medical professionals to appropriately care for their patients.
OPM’s decision places the federal government among the growing list of employers across the country who are dismantling discrimination against transgender employees by treating their health care needs the same as other types of care. In 2013, the Corporate Equality Index, compiled by the Human Rights Campaign, found that more than a quarter of Fortune 500 companies now offer coverage that is fully inclusive of transgender health needs to their employees. The country’s second-largest purchaser of health insurance, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), removed exclusions for transition-related care in 2013 and other state and municipal governments have also taken steps to increase access to care for their transgender employees.
Removing barriers to coverage has become a proven good employment practice, and enables transgender employees to live healthy, authentic lives.
Andrew Cray is a Policy Analyst for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress.