News (USA)

Maryland passes bill requiring state Medicaid plans to cover gender-affirming care

Gov. Wes Moore
Gov. Wes MoorePhoto: Campaign website

Maryland’s newly-elected governor Wes Moore (D) ran on a promise to support legislation that would require state Medicaid plans to cover gender-affirming care. Now it looks like he’ll soon get a chance to make good on that promise.

On Monday, the state’s senate approved the Trans Health Equity Act in a 32–14 vote after the bill passed in the Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday. S.B. 460 now goes to Moore’s desk for a signature.

The new law, introduced by Maryland Del. Anne Kaiser (D) last year, requires the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to “provide medically necessary gender-affirming treatment in a nondiscriminatory manner.” It also requires that “gender-affirming treatment be assessed according to nondiscriminatory criteria that are consistent with current clinical standards.” Among the treatments covered are hormone therapies, puberty blockers, and surgeries, as well as voice training, fertility preservation, and permanent hair removal.

“What is being said nationally about trans people are the same lies that were said about gays and lesbians 20 years ago,” said Kaiser, who became one of Maryland’s first openly gay legislators in 2002. “And that’s part of the reason I feel the passion and the connection to our trans brothers and sisters.”

Del. Kris Fair (D), a co-sponsor of the bill and chair of the Maryland Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, pointed to a 2018 Human Rights Campaign study that found that 60 percent of transgender and non-binary youth will attempt suicide by the age of 18 as a reason to make gender-affirming care more accessible.

“Individuals who are trans and nonbinary are struggling because society continues to put unnecessary layers of adversity in their place,” Fair told Baltimore public radio station WYPR. “Eventually, that adversity can become overwhelming for people. And these are simple solutions that we can take out of the way of trans and non-binary people to allow them to live a more authentic life, and to provide them with a sense of hope and optimism for their experience.”

Transgender advocacy organization Trans Maryland cheered the news in an Instagram post.

“This bill came about after we talked to thousands of trans Marylanders about what we need,” the post read. “And then our community and our allies kept pushing until we WON!”

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