Insurance commissioner warns against gender discrimination

OLYMPIA – All health insurers in Washington state should end discrimination in health insurance based on gender identity and related medical conditions, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said today.

In a letter sent this morning, Kreidler reminded health insurers that exclusions and denials of coverage on the basis of gender identity are state law and the federal Affordable Health Care Act.

If a health insurer covers medically necessary services for its enrollees, it cannot deny those services for a transgender person solely on the basis of a person’s gender status.

“Transgender people are entitled to the same access to health care as everyone else,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Whether specific services are considered medically necessary should be up to the provider to decide on behalf of their patient.”

While Washington state insurance law doesn’t require insurance companies to cover sexual reassignment surgery, it also doesn’t prevent insurers from adding this coverage if they chose to do so.

Health insurers are required to cover procedures that are part of a gender transition process if they’re covered for other policyholders for different reasons. Examples of such services include:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Counseling services
  • Gender transition process
  • Mastectomy
  • Breast augmentation and reconstruction

Some insurers now have exclusions for all transgender services. Kreidler emphasizes in the letter that that’s not allowed.

Many large employers in Washington state, including Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Nordstrom, and the city of Seattle have already taken action to prevent discrimination against transgender employees in their health coverage.

People who believe they’ve been unfairly denied medical services by their health insurer should file a complaint with the insurance commissioner’s office or call the consumer hotline at 1-800-562-6900.

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