New York's Department of Financial Services has issued a directive to health insurance companies requiring them to cover all medically necessary gender-affirming treatments for transgender patients.
In a letter to insurance companies, as reported by the New York Times, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tells insurers that all policies including coverage for mental health care "may not exclude coverage for a the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria." Under this new policy, hormone therapy, psychological therapy, and transition-related surgeries will be covered.
"Gender dysphoria" is a term used by the American Psychiatric Association that refers to feeling distress or discomfort at an incongruity between one's gender identity and the sex one was assigned at birth. Healthcare that addresses this dysphoria is considered "medically necessary" by the APA and the American Medical Association, but is routinely denied coverage by insurance companies, making healthcare prohibitively expensive for many trans people.
New York now joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia,Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont in eliminating barriers to trans-inclusive health insurance policies. Earlier this year, the Obama administration declared that trans Medicare patients and federal employees would have gender-confirming surgeries covered under federal health insurance.
"This is an absolute sea change in the way that insurance for transgender people will cover their healthcare needs," Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund told the Times. "This essentially opens up an entire world of treatment for transgender people that was closed to them previously."
According to the Times, New York's state government is still negotiating whether it will require Medicad, a federal health insurance program for low-income residents, to cover transition-related healthcare as well.