Gender Rights Maryland Praises ACA Implementation

Health care insurance exchanges will be prohibited from discriminating based on gender identity, sexual orientation

Gender Rights Maryland, the local transgender advocacy and civil rights organization for the Free State, issued a press release Thursday praising the progress made in implementing the Affordable Care Act, complete with nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Under the Affordable Care Act, each state is expected to set up its own exchange, or marketplace, where individuals and businesses can choose and purchase from a range of health insurance plans. As part of the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange (MHBE), the Affordable Care Act requires that the MHBE be administered in a way that prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Maryland law also requires the board of trustees tasked with overseeing the operation of the exchange to issue an annual report that includes data identifying disparities in coverage among specific populations, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the press release, signed by Gender Rights Maryland’s board chair Sharon Brackett and executive director Dana Beyer, the Governor’s Office of Healthcare Reform, the MHBE, and the Maryland Insurance Commissioner are now reviewing the plans offered on the exchange to ensure equal access to care. The exchanges are expected to be fully functional by October 2013.

By prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Maryland joins the list of other jurisdictions, such as California, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia, that have attempted to ensure transgender people will have access to affordable health insurance.

In its press release, Gender Rights Maryland specifically thanked Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Co.) for spearheading the effort to include prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the bill, as well as the other members of Maryland’s Gay and Lesbian Caucus for supporting the action. The organization also thanked Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Joshua Sharfstein, Carolyn Quattrocki, executive director of the Governor’s Ofice on Health Care Reform, and Maryland Insurance Administration Commissioner Therese Goldsmith and their staffs for supporting these developments to help benefit the state’s transgender community. ‘

The bill containing the nondiscrimination protections that allowed for the setup and implementation of the health insurance exchanges, known as HB 228, passed the House in March on a 93-43 vote, with 93 of 98 Democrats voting for and Del. Kevin Kelly (D-Allegany Co.) joining 42 Republicans in opposing the implementation. The bill passed the Senate later that month, 36-11, with Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard, Carroll counties) joining all 35 Democrats in approving the exchanges.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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