Originally published on Advocate.com June 09 2011 2:40 PM ET
The Portland, Ore., City Council Wednesday unanimously passed an ordinance
introduced by Mayor Sam Adams that adds comprehensive transgender health
care benefits to one of the available plans for city employees.
"As mayor, it is important to me that we attract and retain the best and brightest employees to the City of Portland," Adams said in a late May statement on the proposed ordinance."Offering non-discriminatory health care benefits -- as leading employers like Nike, Google, Microsoft and IBM do -- is one way to accomplish that goal. Covering basic, medically necessary care is a matter of fairness, and it's the right thing to do."
The Portlander reports that costs for the benefits are minimal, with a projected .08% increase to a health care plan that covers 66% of city employees at a cost of $41.6 million for 2011-2012 (hormone therapy and counseling were already covered by the plan).
Trans-inclusive health care, while supported by the American Medical Association as medically necessary treatment that should be covered by health insurance plans, is offered by only a handful of government employers. In 2001 the city and county of San Francisco became the first to cover comprehensive care, which includes transition procedures, psychotherapy, and hormone treatment.
"Despite actuarial fears of over-utilization and a potentially expensive benefit, the Transgender Health Benefit Program has proven to be appropriately accessed and undeniably more affordable than other, often routinely covered, procedures," San Francisco's Human Rights Commission wrote in a 2006 letter.
Multnomah County, of which Portland is part, also offers such benefits to its employees.