Officials from the administration of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) announced new policies Friday that will improve access to health care for transgender residents of the commonwealth. Massachusetts joins the growing number of states, municipalities, and employers removing discriminatory barriers to health insurance coverage for care related to gender transition.
The Commissioner of Insurance issued guidance for private market insurers, concluding that “excluding coverage for gender identity or gender dysphoria-related treatment will be considered prohibited sex discrimination” and that discriminatory denial of coverage for medically necessary care related to gender transition is prohibited under Massachusetts law. Similarly, the Massachusetts Medicaid program, called MassHealth, announced their intent to remove barriers to coverage for these services.
The new guidance in Massachusetts comes hot on the heels of two federal offices — the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board and the Office of Personnel Management — implementing policies to modernize the coverage offered to transgender people through Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The Boston City Council also voted unanimously last week to ensure fair coverage for transgender municipal employees.
Massachusetts now becomes the seventh jurisdiction to establish guidance for insurers requiring nondiscrimination in health insurance coverage for transgender consumers, along with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. These policies are reflective of the evidence establishing that access to transition-related care is medically necessary and effective treatment for many transgender people, that removing unfair discrimination from health insurance has an immaterial impact on costs, and that exclusions blocking coverage put patients’ lives at risk and undermine the ability of medical professionals to appropriately care for their patients.
Health care advocates and LGBT groups alike applauded the announcement and its significance in ensuring transgender people have access to the full range of care needed to live healthy, productive, and authentic lives.