By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com April 10 2013 4:13 PM ET
California's Department of Managed Health Care issued guidelines Tuesday confirming that insurance providers in the state must provide coverage for medically necessary transition-related treatment for transgender patients.
The directive, which the Transgender Law Center hails as "groundbreaking," confirms that California's Insurance Gender Non-Discrimination Act mandates equal access for all patients to medically necessary treatment, regardless of the patient's gender identity or expression.
"This one letter will save lives," Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, said in a statement. "For years, transgender Californians have been denied coverage of basic care merely because of who we are. Discriminatory insurance exclusions put transgender people and our families at risk for health problems and financial hardship. Now we can finally get the care we need."
The clarification brings California's nondiscrimination policy in line with Colorado, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and the federal Department of Health and Human Services in affirming the rights of transgender patients to receive the medical care they need.
California Assembly Speaker John Pérez applauded the directive, which applies to all HMOs and PPOs regulated by the state's Department of Managed Health Care.
"This is an important step in protecting the health of all Californians, including transgender individuals," said Pérez in a statement. "No Californian should be denied care and treatment because of their gender identity or expression. Implementation of California’s Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act (IGNA) is a simple matter of fairness and equality in health care."
Last year, the Department of Insurance issued similar nondiscrimination regulations for those policies overseen by the Department, which combined with this week's directive means that all California health plans and insurers cannot discriminate against trans patients, according to the Transgender Law Center.