Colorado becomes first state to include gender affirming health care

Titone-backed request approved for 2023

Ryan Dunn
rdunn@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/19/21

Starting in 2023, transgender and nonbinary Coloradans will have broader access to gender affirming care. Governor Jared Polis announced that GAC will be included as an essential health benefit on …

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Colorado becomes first state to include gender affirming health care

Titone-backed request approved for 2023

Posted

Starting in 2023, transgender and nonbinary Coloradans will have broader access to gender affirming care. Governor Jared Polis announced that GAC will be included as an essential health benefit on Oct. 12 after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved the state’s request to add the care to 2023 Essential Health Benefit Benchmark Plan.

Begging in Jan. 2023, about 500,000 Coloradans enrolled in individual or small group plans will have access to GAC, which was already covered by the state’s Medicaid plan. Services covered by the plan will include procedures such as facial feminization surgery, electrolysis, laser hair removal, breast reconstruction and gender reassignment surgery.

The Colorado Sun reported that the Colorado Association of Health Plans predicted a 1.5% cost increase for enrollees, while Colo. House District 27 Representative Brianna Titone — who backed the request — said the addition of GAC would cost customers an additional 64 cents per month.

Titone added that the cost increase was minimal, especially in terms of the benefits that covering GAC would provide.

“It’s not going to add a lot of money to what a plan costs. It’s a very minuscule amount that plans and customers will have to pay for, but it’s necessary for the health and well-being and the mental health of a lot of trans people who need this coverage,” said Titone.

“It may have an increase in cost in the beginning, but the result of that is going to be a long-term savings in the future because you’re reducing all of those collateral things that happen by not being proactive in your care,” Titone continued.

A study published in 2021 by the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic reported that GAC hormone treatments for trans and nonbinary youth led to a 60% decrease in depression and a 73% decrease in suicidality. Additionally, a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that the odds of receiving mental health treatment were reduced 8% every year since receiving gender affirming surgery over a 10-year period.

At an Oct. 12 press conference with Polis, CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure called GAC “lifesaving” and said she hoped other states would follow Colorado’s model.

“Today marks the first time that a state has sought to add additional gender confirming care as a health benefit,” said Brooks-LaSure. “We hope this marks a historic beginning and that other states look to Colorado as a model and take advantage of the opportunity to ensure that their benchmark plan meets the needs of all people in their communities.

“Gender affirming care can be lifesaving,” Brooks-LaSure continued. “By making this care essential, the benchmark plan will guide what is included in health coverage statewide. This expansion of coverage is a model for other states to follow.”

Titone echoed Brooks-LaSure’s sentiment, stating that she hope’s Colo.’s lead on this issue will result in better GAC coverage across the country.

“Here we are being the first state to offer all the necessary care to trans people, which is very high contrast with what’s going on across the country where they’re trying to take away rights for trans people,” said Titone. Whether its preventing kids from playing sports or denying health care coverage to trans and LGBT people, Colorado is doing the opposite of that and actually stepping up to provide for the people who live here.

“Hopefully the federal government will expand this to all plans across the country because this patchwork of care that we have now across the country is really detrimental to the health and well-being of trans people in other states across the country,” Titone continued.

Other additions to the 2023 Essential Health Benefit Benchmark Plan include coverage for alternatives to opioid medications to address substance use disorder and coverage for an annual mental health wellness exam.

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