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Massachusetts to remove barriers to transgender related healthcare

Massachusetts to remove barriers to transgender related healthcare

BOSTON — A range of gender identity treatments — including hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery — could soon be covered in both private insurance and in public programs for Massachusetts residents.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.)
Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.)

The Patrick administration said Friday that it’s seeking to extend health care coverage for medically necessary treatments needed to address gender identity or gender dysphoria.

The administration said Friday that MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, will publish proposed regulations in the coming weeks for the coverage for residents who need transgender related services.

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Gender dysphoria is the diagnosis given to people who experience extreme distress due to a disconnect between their birth sex and gender identity.

In a written statement, Patrick said he was “proud to be part of a commonwealth that puts equality as its top priority.”

“Massachusetts is a leader in health care, where we make the tough decisions for the good of our communities, and where discrimination, of any kind, will not be tolerated,” he said.

The administration said the state Division of Insurance will also advise health insurers that they may not deny services ordinarily available to individuals based on the perceived gender identity of that person when that denial is due only to the individual being identified as belonging to the other sex.

The change also applies to individuals who have undergone, or are undergoing, gender transition.

The administration is recommending the Group Insurance Commission, which provides coverage for city and town workers and their families, approve similar changes.

“In taking today’s action, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in providing necessary access to health insurance for all of our citizens,” state Commissioner of Insurance Joseph Murphy said in a statement.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services last month ended the ban on Medicare coverage for sex-reassignment surgery.

Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, called the announcement by the administration historic.

“This removes all legal barriers in Massachusetts to access to health care for transgender people, and affirms the overwhelming medical consensus that gender reassignment surgery and other related procedures are essential health care services,” Levi said in a release.

Activists said Massachusetts will be the sixth state to enact nondiscrimination policies regarding gender transition-related care. They said Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and California have amended their state policies regarding health insurance provision for gender therapy services.

“As transgender rights become more visible across this country, Massachusetts will continue its tradition of being the beacon of light that so many other states can look to for guidance,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

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