Washington DC Today, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ( OPM ) called on all Federal Employee Health Benefits ( FEHB ) plans to ban general exclusions that target transgender federal employees and dependents. The announcement came in the form of an OPM's Carrier Letter to all insurance plans that cover federal workers. Starting in January 2016, insurance plans for federal workers will no longer be permitted to maintain blanket exclusions of transition-related care for federal employees and their dependents.
In response to this development, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said:
"The Office of Personnel Management's action eliminating blanket trans exclusions represents a huge step toward ending one of the last remaining ways the federal government itself discriminates against transgender people. Until now, the federal government has been providing discriminatory healthcare plans to its trans employees. Transgender workers have been required to pay out of pocket to cover care deemed necessary by their doctor - often for services that are covered for non-transgender people. This is completely out of step with the medical consensus on this issue and it is discrimination, plain and simple.
With today's announcement, transgender federal employees can now access health care that is so fundamental to their well-being and, in the long-term, will make transgender employees happier and more productive workers. We know that plans will still try to exclude some necessary services, and we will keep pushing to eliminate all insurance discrimination against trans people."
Today's announcement is the culmination of years of advocacy by the National Center for Transgender Equality ( NCTE ). Since 2009, NCTE has pressed OPM to ban these outdated exclusions. In June 2014, OPM took a step in the right direction when it told FEHB plans that OPM would no longer require insurance carriers to have blanket exclusions, however, OPM stopped short of outright requiring an end to these exclusions. By November 2014, when the Office of Personnel Management released their FEHB plans, only a handful of carriers had modernized their health plans leaving the vast majority of federal workers behind on coverage.
"Today's carrier letter has significant implications for all workers. Now, the nation's largest employer has taken a stand against trans health care discrimination. That makes it that much harder for any insurance company to hold on to these exclusions," said Keisling. "And you can guarantee that we're going ‹to press the point with every insurance company and every state and federal regulator that the approach OPM has taken is not just good policy, it's the law. This is insurance discrimination and employment discrimination, and it needs to be eliminated in all types of plans."
The National Center for Transgender Equality applauds OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and the Obama Administration for taking action against health care discrimination.
We expect new FEHB plans without exclusions to begin January 1, 2016. However, NCTE urges all workers currently being denied health insurance coverage for transition-related care to refer to NCTE's Know Your Rights resources for information about how to file a complaint.