|By Brad Shannon, The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Under exclusions in health care policies, many of her husband's treatments are not covered and the costs are too much for her family to handle.
"There have been times when we've had to decide between paying the electric bill or paying for his hormone therapy. The electric bill has necessarily won out," Harrington told state officials earlier this spring. "As a result, he suffers bouts of depression, anger, frustration, stagnation, all of the logical outcomes for someone who isn't living the life they need to live."
Harrington and other advocates approached the state Public Employees Benefits Board in April about the challenges faced by transgender people.
As a result of the prodding, the benefits board decided last week to see how quickly the coverage can be included in private and state-run insurance plans serving government workers and retirees. The board is considering requiring worker health plans to cover transgender services by
"This will require careful, thoughtful work on our part and due diligence to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based benefit ... that assures the highest quality of care to people with gender dysphoria,'' said
A growing number of insurance plans cover transgender care.
Lessler described gender dysphoria as persistent feelings of discomfort with one's gender and a strong desire to live as a member of the opposite sex. He said the gender identity condition was recognized in 2008 by the
Harrington and other advocates who approached the state benefits board say they applaud the state's initial steps. But they also hope action takes place more quickly than 2016.
"I personally know a number of
Dalley, associate professor of radiology at the
Dalley noted that a transgender man getting a mammogram might be denied coverage.
"It's not just about surgery. It's also about coverage for hormone therapy, psychotherapy which would not be covered if you put gender identity disorder in the (billing) code, as well as routine health care," Dalley told the benefits board last week.
State officials say three major plans offered to employees -- state-run Uniform Medical Plan, Group Health and
Danielle Askini of the
She cited a 2013 survey of employers by the
Several benefits board members said they are ready to move ahead.
"I would hope that we could move this benefit (into being) as quickly as possible in a manner that maintains high quality,"
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