Does Insurance Cover Gender Reassignment Surgery? In Connecticut, It's Now The Law

In a huge but underreported victory for trans rights, Connecticut will now require all health insurance companies in the state to cover gender reassignment surgery, mental health counseling, hormone therapy, and other treatments related to so-called "gender dysphoria." The Connecticut Insurance Department issued the directive last week, with an official announcing that “as we were turning the corner into the new year, we just wanted to make sure every constituency was clearly heard.”

Finding insurance plans that cover gender reassignment surgery is often incredibly difficult for transgender people. Insurers often don’t consider it necessary coverage, and many trans people have to resort to crowdsourcing to cover the cost of surgery. While some equality-minded law firms like Lambda Legal are available to help, gender reassignment surgery is nonetheless simply not an option for a lot of transgender folk.

In 2010, one out five transgendered people were refused medical care due to their gender identity, and the suicide rate in the trans community is astronomical: Around 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide — a rate 25 times higher than that of the general population.

Connecticut justified its decision by citing two existing statutes: a 2011 law banning discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and the state’s requirement that insurance companies cover mental health treatment. Because gender dysphoria is listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the standard but controversial manual for diagnosing mental health conditions) officials ruled that gender reassignment surgery thus qualifies as a form of mental health treatment.

"Under these statutes, health insurers are required to pay 'covered expenses' for treatment provided to individuals with gender dysphoria where the treatment is deemed necessary under generally accepted medical standards,'' the insurance department wrote in the directive. "Gender dysphoria describes a condition in which an individual is intensely uncomfortable with their biological gender and strongly identifies with, and wants to be, the opposite gender."

Several trans-friendly laws have been enacted this year. California now allows trans-identified children in grades K-12 to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice, while Germany became the first European country to allow birth certificates to include gender designations other than “male” or “female.” New Jersey passed a similar bill, although Governor Chris Christie hasn’t signed it yet.