SAN FRANCISCO – Transgender Law Center praised the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERs) for voting Wednesday to ensure that transgender CalPERS members have equal access to health insurance benefits. The vote removes exclusionary language in health care policies that both the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) have deemed discriminatory. Both the CDI and DMHC have ordered the plans they oversee to remove exclusions.
CalPERS is the nation’s largest public pension fund and is an administrator of health benefits for 1.3 Million enrollees. In the past, all of the health insurance plans available to CalPERS members arbitrarily excluded transgender people from obtaining the same health care services that were available to non-transgender members. Now, transgender CalPERS members will no longer be singled out for denial of care and will be able to access medically necessary treatment on the same terms as their fellow employees.
The change could not come soon enough for transgender CalPERS members like Doug Heumann, a retired employee of Caltrans. “Not having access to hormone therapy made me feel like a second-class citizen. There are already so many barriers that transgender people face, and not being able to access medically necessary care has taken a toll on me,” he said.
Stephanie, a real estate analyst for the state, says the policy change will have a direct impact on both her health and her sense of justice. “I’ve had my insurance deny coverage for blood tests and doctors visits because I am transgender. I’ve been waiting 40 years to be free and treated with fairness. Now it will be a reality,” she said.
This vote is a result of years of education and advocacy by a wide array of organizations and people including Transgender Law Center and SEIU Local 1000. The CalPERS vote is in line with a growing trend in government, educational institutions, and corporate America, toward removing discriminatory language in policies resulting in coverage equal to that of non-transgender people and coverage that meets the medical needs of transgender people.
“We’re incredibly proud of the CalPERS Board for taking action to make sure transgender people are treated fairly and have the same access to care as everyone else,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director at Transgender Law Center. “Today CalPERS joins a growing list of public and private sector entities that have decided the time has come to end exclusionary policies.”