• State mandates health insurance for transgender patients
    April 29,2013
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    Leaders in the medical and LGBT communities are celebrating a new health bulletin they say will require insurance companies to cover “medically necessary services” for transgender Vermonters — a mandate that will include gender-reassignment surgery.

    The bulletin, issued by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation’s Division of Insurance, says that “DFR is committed to ensuring that Vermonters do not face discrimination in accessing medically necessary health care benefits, including those based on gender identity and gender dysphoria.”

    “This is both a simple question of fairness and a matter addressed by existing insurance law and DFR regulation,” the bulletin says.

    Corey Mallon, with the Vermont Equal Care Coalition, said the clarification will help eliminate roadblocks to care for a population vulnerable to bias.

    “Many health insurance plans categorically exclude gender transition-related care for no reason other than stigma and bias, and that is wrong,” Mallon said in a written statement. “There is no principled reason for denying a transgender employee medically necessary health care.”

    A press release issued by RU12? Community Center said Vermont joins a growing number of states that have issued similar guidance to insurance companies.

    “Transition-related health care is medically necessary for many transgender individuals whose health and well-being depends on bringing their physical body into alignment with their gender identity,” the release said. “And determination of what care an individual patient needs properly rests with medical providers, not insurance companies.”

    Mari Cordes, a registered nurse and president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, called the bulletin a “momentous achievement.

    “We are extremely pleased that yet another barrier to receiving quality health care has fallen,” Cordes said.

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    With just two weeks remaining until the May 11 date by which legislative leaders are looking to drop the closing gavel on the 2013 session, action will be heavy this week as lawmakers try to push ahead with some of the major unresolved bills.

    The Senate Committee on Appropriations convenes today, when it’s expected to vote out a $5.3 billion budget that will include some key revisions to the version passed by the House earlier this year. The committee’s final product will include controversial decisions on funding for low-income heating assistance, thermal efficiency programs, child care subsidies, and other programs competing for scarce resources.

    Senate President John Campbell said earlier this month he intended to trim from the House budget, and his appropriations committee seems poised to deliver.

    Later this week, the full Senate heads to the floor to debate the $10 million revenue proposal that passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Finance on Friday. Perhaps most controversially, the package would cap the home mortgage interest deduction at $12,000, a provision that has drawn sharp criticism from Gov. Peter Shumlin. The bill would also create a minimum income tax liability of 3 percent for Vermonters with an adjusted gross income of more than $125,000 per year.

    Over in the House, lawmakers will have a busy, and contentious, day Tuesday when two major bills hit the floor: end-of-life choices and universal pre-kindergarten education.
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