By One Colorado and Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

Late last week, one of Colorado’s leading insurers, Kaiser Permanente, committed publicly to work with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to lead an important discussion on transgender health. 

While Kaiser is one of Colorado’s non-profit insurers and has been a leader in providing culturally competent health care for LGBT people across the country, many of Kaiser’s plans have long excluded coverage of health care services and procedures for transgender Coloradans.

One Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative’s own Kaiser health care plans for our employees include these exclusions. And in fact, One Colorado experienced a denial of coverage for one of its employees. In response, our organizations began a discussion with Kaiser in September 2012 about ending the barriers to health care for transgender Coloradans. Today more than ever, we look forward to continuing that conversation and working with both Kaiser and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to eliminate the health care barriers that currently exist for transgender Coloradans.

This critical discussion comes months after guidance was issued by the Colorado Division of Insurance, clarifying that transgender Coloradans should not be denied coverage for services that are provided to other groups of people based on our state’s anti-discrimination statute.

The Division of Insurance’s bulletin, along with the state’s anti-discrimination statute and the Affordable Care Act, make it clear that no one should be denied health care services based on sexual orientation or transgender status. Specifically, the bulletin issued earlier this year clarifies that if a medically necessary service is covered for some patients, it cannot be denied to transgender individuals.

As we know too well for far too many transgender Coloradans, refusal of care and coverage for medically necessary health care has long been the rule and not the exception. In One Colorado’s previous report on LGBT Coloradans’ health care experiences, “Invisible: The State of LGBT Health in Colorado,” three out of four transgender Coloradans reported a lack of or limited insurance to be a problem for them in getting the health care they need. And 85% of transgender Coloradans reported health care expenses to be a barrier to seeking services. Incredibly, 53% reported being refused care from a provider.

We share the hope that this collaboration between Kaiser Permanente, other insurers in Colorado, the Civil Rights Commission, community groups and transgender Coloradans themselves will lead to a better understanding of the issues — and to real solutions. And while we are encouraged by these discussions, we also look forward to Kaiser’s full implementation of the state anti-discrimination statute and the elimination of exclusions for transgender Coloradans.

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