Pictured: Transgender flag
FreeState Legal, Maryland’s civil legal aid organization for the low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, announces two separate expansions of access to health care coverage for the transgender community. CareFirst, the state’s largest health insurer, and Maryland Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid program, have informed FreeState Legal that they have both removed discriminatory policy exclusions that have prevented transgender patients from accessing medically necessary care for the process of gender transition.
“Nobody should be denied access to medically necessary health care because of insurer discrimination,” said Patrick Paschall, executive director of FreeState Legal. “With the removal of transition-related care exclusions from all health insurance plans CareFirst offers in Maryland and by allowing low-income Marylanders to access transgender-inclusive benefits through Medicaid, thousands of transgender people will now have access to life-saving and gender affirming transition-related health care. We applaud CareFirst and the Hogan Administration for taking these important steps to ensure that transgender people have equal access to the health care they need.”
Both victories arise out of advocacy from FreeState Legal. CareFirst agreed to change its policy regarding transition-related care after FreeState Legal, along with pro bono cooperating counsel Jessica P. Weber of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, filed an insurance discrimination claim against the insurer on behalf of a client who was denied transition-related health care by CareFirst. Although CareFirst reversed course and agreed to cover that particular client’s health care because it was medically necessary for reasons other than gender transition, the insurer also committed to removing transition-care exclusions from its health plans. Maryland Medical Assistance chose to remove its transition-related care exclusions after FreeState Legal settled a legal claim with the State of Maryland over a similar exclusion in the state’s employee health benefits program—as part of the settlement, the State removed the exclusion and began providing a comprehensive health benefit for gender transition-related care. Following that settlement, FreeState Legal approached Maryland’s Medicaid agency and requested that the Medicaid program be updated to reflect the benefits offered to state employees.
Read the full press release here: 11.19.15 CareFirst and Medicaid Announcement