June 16, 2014 — HHS' decision to overturn "a decades-old ban on Medicare coverage for gender-confirming surgeries" was a "major victory" for transgender people, but many will "continue to be denied [transition-specific care] because of state-level restrictions on coverage," Parker Marie Molloy, a transgender journalist and activist, writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times.
Just five states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon and Vermont -- as well as Washington, D.C., require private insurance companies to cover transition-specific care, according to Molloy. "Pushing the other 45 states to extend coverage is the next front in the struggle for insurance equality for transgender individuals," she writes.
Although a "growing number of medical organizations have concluded that treatment of gender dysphoria ... is a medically necessary step toward helping transgender individuals lead healthy and happy lives," the states that do not mandate coverage largely claim that such procedures "are cosmetic in nature and therefore not eligible for coverage," Molloy writes. In fact, gender dysphoria "has been linked with depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety and other forms of psychological distress," she writes.
"In order to properly care for transgender individuals, surgical options must be made affordable and available," Molloy continues, adding, "We need to ... push to end the anti-transgender stigma that empowers politicians and insurance companies to deny relatively inexpensive, lifesaving medical treatment" (Molloy, New York Times, 6/12).