October 17, 2014 at 10:00 am EDT | by Staff reports
State Dept. expands coverage for trans employees
John Kerry, State Department, gay news, Washington Blade, GLIFAA

John Kerry’s State Department has expanded access to health care for its trans staffers. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Transgender State Department employees will soon have access to health care needs associated with gender reassignment procedures, the Washington Post and other outlets report.

Insurance policies under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program generally exclude services “related to sex reassignment.”

In practice, this transgender exclusion “denies coverage to transgender people for the same treatments available to non-transgender policy holders, without regard to medical necessity,” the State Department said in a statement. “Insurance companies often view this exclusion in the broadest possible terms, excluding care that clearly has no relationship to gender status such as cancer treatment and routine preventive care.”

But starting in January, the exclusions will no longer be part of the department’s largest health insurance plan, provided by the American Foreign Service Protective Association, the Post reports.

The State Department has about a dozen health insurance providers. All of them have been asked to lift the transgender exclusion, and AFSPA’s Foreign Service Benefit Plan is the first to comply. The State Department said the Foreign Service Benefit Plan covers more than 57,000 active and retired State Department and Defense Department employees and their families, the Post article said.

Paula S. Jakub, AFSPA’s chief executive, told the Post the association has “been working tirelessly” with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and others “for the last two years to make this benefit a reality.”

But it is not a reality for other plans in the OPM-administered federal health-benefits program. OPM said it “removed its requirement that carriers exclude ‘services, drugs or supplies related to sex transformations’ ” beginning in 2015, but it did not order health insurance companies to do so.

GLIFAA, an LGBT group that represents State Department employees, praised the efforts, the Post reports.

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