Today, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced it was removing the exclusion of transition-related health services for Federal Employee Health Benefits plans (FEHB). Today's announcement is a crucial step towards ensuring that medically necessary healthcare is available to every federal worker, regardless of their gender identity. This announcement is also consistent with an increasing level of access to care for transgender workers. HRC worked closely with other LGBT organizations to advocate for this important change.
Currently 25% of Fortune 500 companies offer full transition related care to employees and in the past year five states and the District of Columbia have also issued rulings prohibiting discrimination in private healthcare plans. Today's announcement does not require that providers require coverage, but it does permit insurance providers to offer these important health benefits to transgender federal workers.
“Today’s welcome decision by the Office of Personnel Management to remove this discriminatory and harmful exclusion is an important step towards closing the gap in access to quality health care for transgender workers,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “HRC urges FEHB insurance carriers to include this essential coverage in their plans so that federal workers have access to medically necessary transition-related care.”
Today's decision comes on the heels of an historic string of victories for the transgender community on the federal and state levels. On May 15th, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act into law, a bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit. Maryland is the 18th state, along with the District of Columbia, to provide this protection to residents.
Just last month, the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board issued a ruling on an administrative challenge determining that Medicare’s policy of categorically excluding coverage of gender affirming surgery is unreasonable and contrary to contemporary science and medical standards of care.
Earlier this week the American Medical Association affirmed a resolution providing that transgender people should be allowed to change the gender marker on their birth certificate regardless of whether they have had gender affirmation surgery. The ability to change a gender designation and to have access to accurate identity documents is a critical issue for transgender people in areas such as traveling, voting, applying for a job, or seeking government services.
In addition to these victories, the transgender community has also become more visible than ever before. In May Laverne Cox, a star on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, appeared on the cover of TIME magazine this week providing an in depth interview describing her experience as a transgender woman and the evolution of the LGBT movement.
"These victories are undoubtedly improving the lives of transgender people across the country -- improving access to health care and providing critical protections on the job and beyond." said HRC's Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer Jeff Krehely. "However, the increased visibility of transgender people, like Laverne Cox, has an even more personal impact, most importantly on our youth."