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Boston City Council Votes Unanimously in Support of Gender Therapy Access Ordinance for Transgender Municipal Workers

Wednesday Jun 11, 2014
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The Boston City Council, by a unanimous vote, passed an ordinance Wednesday ensuring that the City does not contract with any health insurance provider that does not provide comprehensive coverage for gender therapy services, including mental health care, hormone therapy, and other transition-related care for transgender City employees.

"This is a modest proposal that will have a profound impact on the lives of transgender municipal workers," said Kara Coredini, executive director of MassEquality. "We applaud Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu for introducing the ordinance and the Council members who co-sponsored it and voted to pass it. Their action today is an important next step in Boston’s continuing leadership on transgender equality, and we hope that the state will soon follow Boston’s lead as it has so many times on issues of LGBTQ equality."

Introduced by City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu in mid-April, the ordinance received the support of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the city’s Public Employees Committee, which recently voted to ensure that the city’s insurance plans to accommodate increased access to gender therapy services for Boston employees. Though the ordinance passed unanimously, this is a very small step in ensuring that all transgender people in the state are provided comprehensive insurance coverage. Currently, there are 17,000 Boston municipal workers whose insurance coverage will be impacted by this change.

"I am thrilled that the City of Boston is setting the standard for an inclusive workplace with policies to attract the most talented and committed employees," said Wu. "Inclusive health care coverage is the right thing to do for our employees and their families, and the best economic policy. I am proud that my colleagues on the Council and our Mayor support this important ordinance so strongly, and so grateful to MassEquality and the many partner organizations who testified in support. I am honored to be a part of this step towards ensuring Boston remains the best place to live, work and play."

The language of the ordinance prevents the City from contracting with health insurers who refuse to provide coverage for transition-related care. One insurer, Neighborhood Health Plan, did not have a rider in its coverage for transition-related care, but will add one to its coverage that allows for gender therapy services. The other plans already covered these services for municipal employees.

"I thank MassEquality for being a leader and a partner in the ongoing fight for justice for our trans neighbors," Boston City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley said. "Access to quality health care is a civil rights issue. This ordinance will dramatically improve the lives of our City’s trans employees and their families; restoring their dignity and alleviating the cost of medically necessary care."

According to research done by the Center for American Progress, the cost of providing healthcare coverage for transgender municipal workers is expected to be negligible. Studies have shown that the more than 200 private companies across the country that provide coverage for gender therapy services reported insignificant changes in healthcare costs.

"We are so proud to be part of a city that’s taking significant steps to remove the barriers to health care for all people," said Susan Sherry, Deputy Director of Community Catalyst, a Boston-based national consumer health advocacy organization. "The Council’s overwhelming support for this policy change that benefits transgender employees sends a strong message to Boston and all Massachusetts residents, and promotes our city as a national leader on health equity issues."

Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and California have also amended their state policies to ensure that health insurers do not discriminate against transgender individuals.

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, states, "This is an important step forward in ensuring that health coverage meets an individual’s full range of health care needs. We commend the City Council for providing a model state policymakers can use to improve access to care for all residents."

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