OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler sent guidance to all health insurers in Washington state reminding them that it is against state law to discriminate against an enrollee based on their gender identity.
He sent the letter in response to the announcement the Trump administration made last week that it intends to limit the protections transgender patients have under the Affordable Care Act.
“The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, with cases rising across the country. Instead of expanding access to care to everyone who needs it, this president is once again attacking the most vulnerable among us,” said Kreidler. “The Supreme Court just issued a ruling that protects transgender people from discrimination in the workplace. They also should not be denied access to health care.
“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the inequities in our health care system, with higher rates of infection and death among communities of color. This is not the time to pull back on the obligations of health insurers to protect their enrollees from discrimination of any kind.”
The Obama administration included transgender patient protections as part of a rule enforcing a section of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that bans discrimination in health care based on sex, race, color, national origin, age or disability. In 2019, the Washington state Legislature took action to incorporate these protections into state law and in 2020, it expanded which health plans must include the protections.
The new law took effect on June 11 and ensures that Washington consumers will continue to be protected, despite any federal action to limit these benefits.
Last week, the Trump administration announced a rule overturning these protections as well as the requirement that health insurers provide consumer protection information on key health care documents for limited-English speakers. It also narrowed the type of health plans that must comply with the ACA’s non-discrimination standards.
Kreidler added, “Washington state will now step in to protect the people of our state where President Trump has failed, again.”
Kreidler also praised the efforts of House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, and Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, to ensure Washington state maintains health insurance protections for transgender patients.
Substitute House Bill 2338 prohibits discrimination by health insurers based upon race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The new law applies to all state-regulated health plans.
This is the latest discriminatory action the Trump administration has taken against transgender individuals. He has rolled back provisions related to transgender individuals serving in the military, as well as protections for transgender students.
In 2014, Kreidler called on all health insurers in Washington state to treat all transgender people fairly and cover their needs on par with cisgender people.
“The president was elected to represent all Americans,” Kreidler said. “This dangerous policy will harm millions of transgender people in our country who already face higher rates of violence, homelessness, unemployment, lack of medical care and suicide rates than cisgender people. Washington state has a long-standing reputation of protecting the health and lives of all its residents, regardless of gender or gender identity and that reputation stands.”