This week, the New York Department of Financial Services is issuing guidance to insurance companies this week requiring them to cover all treatments related to a person’s transgender identity. This would include psychological treatment, hormone therapy, and any transition-related surgeries.
The guidance came in the form of a letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). As reported by the New York Times, the letter instructs that any policy that includes coverage for mental health conditions “may not exclude coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria.”
Transgender people are regularly denied coverage through their carriers and can often not afford the treatments required to transition their bodies into alignment with their gender identities. A 2011 study found that 19 percent of transgender people lacked any health insurance, compared to 17 percent of the general population. Only 51 percent were able to obtain employer-based coverage compared to 58 percent of the general population. A majority reported wanting to have some type of surgery but had not yet, largely because they could not afford it themselves.
New York becomes the ninth state to guarantee transgender coverage in health insurance, joining states like Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. At the federal level, progress has also been made through the lifting of exclusions for transgender coverage from Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Executive Director Michael Silverman praised the change, noting, “Transgender people have suffered because of discriminatory health insurance exclusions that target the medically necessary care they need.” He went on to urge New York to drop its own transgender exclusion from Medicaid, which is currently being litigated.
A week later, Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health announced a new regulation end the state’s transgender exclusion in Medicaid.