Kaiser to cover transgender services in its plans

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A year ago, transgender people in Colorado were facing trouble getting health insurance plans to cover medically necessary treatments.

People around the state were having trouble getting both routine tests and specific treatments paid for by insurance..

No longer.

Now at least two health insurance plans have pledged to cover all services for all Coloradans.

Kaiser Pemanente announced earlier this month that it would cover services for transgender Coloradans in its plans, which is hailed as a major step forward for the state’s LGBT community. Colorado HealthOP, a new member-governed, nonprofit cooperative health insurance plans also does not specifically exclude transgender health care in their plans.

The move follows the state’s Division of Insurance edict that health insurance plans cannot discriminate based on transgender status – and must cover any treatment deemed medically necessary by a doctor.

“Kaiser Permanente is committed to reducing health disparities and providing culturally competent care to all of our patients,” Kaiser Permanente said in a statement. “Last March, following new guidance from the Colorado Division of Insurance, Kaiser Permanente began reviewing our medical review polices related to transgender services. Effective September 10, 2013, Kaiser Permanente now provides coverage for additional services to treat gender dysphoria in plans that are under the oversight of the Colorado Division of Insurance.”

One Colorado, a nonprofit that focuses on LGBT rights and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative sent a letter to Kaiser earlier this year, signed by 31 small Colorado employers that asked the company to remove its transgender health exclusions.

While the decision by Kaiser is a step in the right direction, advocates say there is still more work to be done.

“We look forward to working with Kaiser Permanente to implement this very important and very just decision – it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s Colorado law,” said Ashley Wheeland, health policy director at One Colorado. “But two insurers is not enough. We believe that transgender Coloradans and their employers deserve the same options in picking any health plan, and we hope we can soon say in the state of Colorado that all of our health plans cover the services that our transgender friends need.”