Metro Weekly

HHS rules prohibit transgender healthcare discrimination

If approved, healthcare plans could no longer deny coverage for medical treatments for gender dysphoria

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell - Photo: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell – Photo: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

New rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would effectively prohibit health care plans from denying coverage to transgender people for various treatments for gender dysphoria.  The HHS rules, intended to implement nondiscrimination provisions contained in the Affordable Care Act, would classify gender identity discrimination as sex discrimination. To comply, plans would have to cover medically necessary medications, surgeries or other treatments for gender dysphoria if they cover similar services to non-transgender people with other medical conditions. 

Once finalized, the HHS rules will apply to health insurance plans sold on either state or federal health care exchanges, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, the Indian Health Service, and any health care provider who accepts federal funds. The rules will not apply to private health plans who neither accept Medicare or Medicaid and who offer insurance plans outside of the exchanges. While the rules do not specifically address programs such as veterans’ and military health care, those agencies are expected to implement the nondiscrimination provisions into their programs. 

“The Department of Health and Human Service’s proposed rules have the potential to be life-saving for transgender people,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, remarked in a statement. “These rules will help finally make the promise of the Affordable Care Act real for transgender people — that they can find affordable health insurance that covers the essential care they need and doesn’t exclude care simply because of who they are.”

HHS will be accepting public comments on the proposed rules for 60 days.

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