By: Andrew Shaughnessy
For the LGBT community health is a complicated matter. It is further complicated when health insurance companies deny or exclude certain forms of coverage that for some are basic health needs. For LGBT folks seeking gender-affirming health care coverage barriers exist at every turn — until the Affordable Care Act. Or so we thought…
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the ground of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability under “any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving Federal financial assistance … or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive agency or any entity established under [Title I of ACA]….” To ensure equal access to health care, Section 1557 also applies civil rights protections to the newly created Health Insurance Marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act.
Upon researching a complaint raised to us by a Missourian, who qualified and enrolled in a federal marketplace plan, we concluded that exclusions still exist under ACA plans that inhibit transgender patients from getting the basic care they need. Under certain Federal marketplace health insurance plans exclusions have been put in place that state “sex change services and supplies for a sex change and/or reversal of a sex change.”
A real life example of how this affects transgender patients was raised to me, “I had a large cyst on my ovary that had to be removed a several years ago. I hadn’t started transitioning, so my insurance company didn’t blink when I claimed the surgery to remove it. Fast forward to now. If I had the same problem and walked into the doctor’s office with a beard and “male” on my documents, the insurance company can (and would absolutely) deny my claim.”
The State of Missouri’s, along with several states’ ACA exchange is administered by the federal government and is governed by this rule, however this exclusion is a clear violation of Section 1557. Transgender patients who rely on marketplace coverage for health insurance are forced to censor their own health management for fear that marketplace plans will deem any healthcare on a transgender body excluded from the plan.
I along with the support of 200s Missourians requested that the Department of Health and Human Services investigate these claims and make efforts to remedy any claims of sex discrimination in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.