By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com June 23 2014 5:22 PM ET
On Friday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a number of changes to how MassHealth, the state-run insurance program, along with its private-market counterparts, will treat transgender patients.
Starting this year, both MassHealth and the state’s private insurance companies will begin offering coverage of transition-related care for the state’s transgender residents.
Massachusetts now becomes the sixth state — along with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia — to prohibit insurance companies from issuing blanket denials for transition-related care.
Joseph Murphy, commissioner of insurance at the state's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation issued a memo Friday informing the state’s insurers that each will be expected to cover transition-related medical care, or face legal penalties.
“If [an insurance] carrier refuses to cover medically necessary treatment because the insured failed to conform to the carrier’s idea of how a man or a woman should look or behave, then the insured has been discriminated against based on the individual’s sex,” the guideline reads in part. “Thus, denying medically necessary treatment based on an individual’s gender identity or gender dysphoria is prohibited sex discrimination under Massachusetts law.”
“Therefore, the Division has concluded that excluding coverage for gender identity or gender dysphoria-related treatment will be considered prohibited sex discrimination because it would be a limitation on coverage based on the sex of the insured,” concludes the directive.
A number of Massachusetts-based LGBT advocates lauded the news.
“Gov. Patrick has once again illustrated his forward-looking and compassionate leadership in implementing these policies,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “As transgender rights become more visible across this country, Massachusetts will continue its tradition of being the beacon of light that so many other states can look to for guidance on equality.”
“This is a monumental step forward for the LGBT community in the Commonwealth,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini. “We applaud Governor Patrick’s leadership in ensuring that transgender people receive the medically-necessary services they need to lead healthy, productive lives. We look forward to working with the administration on the implementation of these changes.”