In a historic moment, President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law last week. The law will allow millions of Americans to be able to afford insurance coverage and to access quality health care. In expanding access to health care, the law addresses one of many social justice issues we encounter today in American society.
Transgender people can be rest assured that insurance companies cannot deny or drop coverage to an individual because that individual is transgender. The health care reform law bans insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage to individuals or their dependents because of their pre-existing conditions. Thus, being a transgender person cannot be denied coverage or dropped by an insurance company because the insurance company considers transgender people to have a pre-existing condition. However, we should note that this portion of the health care reform law will not be enforced until 2014.
Despite this huge victory, we have much more work to do. The prohibition against discriminating based on pre-existing conditions does not force private insurance companies and public insurance (ex. Medicaid, Medicare, Tri-Care) to cover transition-related care. Private insurance companies and public insurers still have discriminatory exclusions against transition-related care because of old stereotypes against transgender people and fear of increased costs. However, the American Medical Association and World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) both state hat transgender people should be allowed to access transition-related care to improve their lives and sense of well-being. Exclusions against transition-related care mean that transgender people must incur significant financial expenses in order to transition.
The health care reform law will allow more transgender people to afford insurance coverage and access healthcare. It will also prevent insurance companies from labeling transgender people as having pre-existing conditions. We must savor this victory and recognize that advocacy on behalf of the transgender community cannot rest until we achieve full equality.