People of Northwest Public Radio
Wed June 25, 2014
Insurance Commissioner: Wash. Health Plans Must Cover Services For Transgender People
Health plans in Washington state can’t refuse to cover services for transgender people if the same procedures are covered for others. That’s the message from the state insurance commissioner, who says he’ll take action against insurers who don’t comply.
It’s not uncommon for private health plans to exclude gender transition procedures – and medical services related to them. Gwen Yeh of Seattle says her Premera plan wouldn’t pay for the hormones or frequent blood work she needed as part of her move toward living as a woman.
She says she had to find workarounds – doctors who would diagnose her without revealing the connection to her gender transition.
“They have to say that I'm experiencing a hormonal imbalance of some sort, which is true," Yeh said. "But if it’s revealed that I'm transitioning, they could deny me the hormones that I need, offered to other people.”
Now Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says companies won’t be allowed to do that anymore. His interpretation of state and federal law guarantees equal treatment for transgender people.
Health plans aren’t required to cover sexual reassignment surgery, but they would have to pay for any related services they cover for other people.
A Premera spokeswoman says the company is still reviewing the letter. She says some Premera plans do exclude transgender services, and some cover them. Other major carriers either didn’t return calls or declined to comment.
Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network