By Gabriel Joell Brown

Lack of access and coverage for healthcare needs is an issue most folks face in the U.S. every day, including trans and gender non-conforming individuals.

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity or gender expression does not correspond with their biological sex assigned at birth.

According to federal and state laws in the United States, discrimination in health care and insurance coverage based on having a transgender identity is prohibited. In theory, this means that it would be illegal for a health insurance plan to deny coverage for medically necessary transition related care. The reality is that up to 46% of transgender individuals report having a health insurer deny them gender-affirming care.

While a law of protection exists, it was created within the Affordable Care Act, therefore only extending this protection to those utilizing programs or activities administered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or any entity instituted under the ACA. States are permitted to make their own laws surrounding inclusion and exclusion where health insurance coverage is concerned, and while 20 states have adopted the protections afforded in the ACA, there are 30 states in the U.S. that allow health insurance plans to exclude gender affirming care.

Many myths about making transgender healthcare more accessible through insurance coverage exist. One of the most popular being that if health insurance companies adopted transgender inclusive policies then premiums and deductibles for all insured individuals would increase as a result. This has been proven false in multiple studies, including the very first government-sponsored economic impact assessment conducted in the state of California in 2012.

According to the American Medical Association transgender patients who receive gender-affirming care, including surgical care, feel more aligned in their bodies and this results in improved overall mental and physical health – lower rates of depression and anxiety, reduction in substance use rates, higher rates of adherence to HIV care and reduction in self-medication, and fewer risks of death by suicide.

Transgender people deserve equal access to life-saving, medically necessary care. To help in the fight for justice for transgender individuals in Utah, consider supporting local organizations like Genderbands, who use grant money and other funds to help transgender people in Utah pay for medically necessary transition related care.

Education is also a great first step, and you can find all your LGBTQIA2S+ literary needs at Under the Umbrella Bookstore in downtown Salt Lake City!