December 11, 2014 / 5:36 PM / 4 years ago

New York orders insurers to cover gender reassignment surgery

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo waves to the crowd as he walks into an election party with his girlfriend Sandra Lee after winning the New York gubernatorial race during the U.S. midterm elections in New York, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Insurers can no longer deny coverage of gender reassignment surgery or other sex change treatment for transgender New Yorkers, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday.

The move makes New York the ninth U.S. state to mandate coverage, after California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, according the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, an advocacy group. Washington, D.C., also mandates it.

In a letter sent this week to insurers, the state Department of Financial Services said they “may not deny medically necessary treatment otherwise covered by a health insurance policy solely on the basis that the treatment is for gender dysphoria.”

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person’s physical gender at birth conflicts with the gender he or she later identifies with, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is classified as a mental disorder in the current American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Because New York state law requires insurance coverage for psychological disorders, patients are entitled to insurance coverage for treatments, such as surgery or hormone therapy, for that diagnosis, the letter says.

“Respecting the rights and dignity of all New Yorkers is paramount,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By taking this action, we are ensuring that principle rightfully extends to transgender people across our state.”

The directive comes just days after the New York City Council passed a bill to make it easier for transgender residents to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates.

Most parts of the country, except Tennessee, Ohio and Idaho, already allow transgender people to amend their birth certificates, according to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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