Following the Vanity Fair photos of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, transgender issues are being brought up in the health insurance industry as more insurers start paying for gender reassignment surgery, making it easier for this consumer population to access the expensive procedure, reported MarketWatch.
More than 24 major insurers--including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, Cigna and UnitedHealth--provide coverage for the surgery without blanket exclusions for transgender-related healthcare, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Aetna became the first major health insurer to add gender reassignment surgery as a benefit for its employees and any contracted companies choosing to add it to their benefits package, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. The company also recently launched a widespread marketing campaign helping LGBT customers find insurance products and healthcare providers that fit their needs.
What's more, it's likely that an increasing number of insurers will start paying for the surgery as regulators in nine states and the District of Columbia have proposed laws prohibiting insurers from discriminating against treatments for gender reassignment. And other states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, already have similar laws in place.
Much of this regulatory action has come since Medicare lifted a 33-year old ban on coverage for gender reassignment surgery. And although the Affordable Care Act does not explicitly require insurers to cover the procedure, the Obama administration has told insurers that they can't refuse to accept a member who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Despite the tremendous progress in insurers offering access to transgender healthcare, barriers still remain. "There are still too many people that fall within the gaps of the patchwork of different public and private insurance programs," Josh Block, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project in New York, told MarketWatch. "It's critical that we get to a place where any trans person in America is able to access medically necessary treatment."