Federal Employee Health Plans Can Now Include Transition-Related Health Care

Federal Employee Health Benefits insurers will no longer be forced to exclude transition-related healthcare, but not all advocates are pleased.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

June 13 2014 5:33 PM ET

Today, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced that will be removing the existing ban on transition-related healthcare in Federal Employee Health Benefits plans (FEHB). This long-anticipated announcement comes as good news for federal employees who have, until this point been denied coverage of these medically necessary services.

According to Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed, the exclusion was quietly brought to an end as OPM officials sent out a form letter to FEHB insurance providers, alerting them that they would now have the ability to cover gender-confirming procedures like hormone replacement therapy and corrective genital surgeries.

Notably, this step does not explicitly require FEHB insurance providers to cover transition-related procedures, but rather merely suggests that insurance providers can now make their own decisions about whether or not they will provide such treatment in their plans.

"Today's welcome decision by the Office of Personnel Management to remove this descriminatory and harmful exclusion is an important step towards closing the gap in access to quality health care for transgender workers," said David Stacy, government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign in a statement. "HRC urges FEHB insurance carriers to include this essential coverage in their plans so that federal workers have access to medically necessary transition-related care."

Federal employee, transgender woman, and trial attorney Emily Prince — speaking on behalf of only herself — argues that this move is actually a step backwards for advocates of trans-inclusive healthcare, and actually codifies discrimination.

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Medicare's blanket exclusion on gender-confirming surgeries is to be removed, declaring that the decades-old policy runs contrary to contemporary scientific and medical standards of care.

This move is the latest step in a growing trend of organizations agreeing with medical consensus and recognizing that transgender health care is, in fact, medically necessary. Public pressure continues to mount in support of transgender-inclusive insurance coverage in both private and public policies.

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