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Commissioner Lara calls on Trump administration to stop undermining health care protections for transgender Californians

News: 2019 Press Release

For Release: August 5, 2019
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Commissioner Lara calls on Trump administration to stop undermining health care protections for transgender Californians
18 state insurance commissioners united in effort to roll back new regulations

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, together with 17 state insurance commissioners, announced he is submitting a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, urging the Trump administration to protect rules addressing unfair treatment of transgender consumers.

The commissioner notes the proposed changes by the Trump administration will undermine civil rights protections for millions of consumers, create an uneven playing field for health insurers and negatively affect state insurance markets.

The proposed changes impact the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1557, which prohibits sex discrimination in health insurance and clarifies protections for transgender Americans from being denied lifesaving medically necessary care. On May 24, 2019, the Trump administration proposed regulations that ignore widely-recognized precedent and roll back protections that ensure equal protection from discrimination by insurers and providers.

“California law and the Affordable Care Act prohibit health insurance policies that discriminate against people based on their gender identity,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who is California’s first statewide LGBT elected leader. “The Trump administration should withdraw this proposed rule, which will lead to confusion and discrimination. Everyone should have access to medically necessary health care—we should focus on expanding coverage, not limiting it.”

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 23% of transgender people reported that in the past year, they avoided going to the doctor when sick or injured out of fear of discrimination and 33% of transgender people who did see a health care provider in the past year were harassed, denied care, or even assaulted.

The signatories of this letter, including Commissioner Lara, believe this proposed rule attempts to give health insurers and providers a license to discriminate against transgender policyholders and will have a significant negative impact on a community already vulnerable to discrimination in health care, housing and employment.

Following California’s lead, 19 states plus the District of Columbia have determined that discriminatory policies targeting transgender Americans violate state laws and have issued directives and regulations ordering insurance carriers to halt this harmful practice. The ACA and its existing rules expanded this protection across the country, ensuring equal protection under the law.

The ACA clarified insurers’ responsibility to make sure transgender policyholders have equal access to the same health insurance and care as every other insured American. This includes health care related to gender transition, which is recognized by the medical community as medically effective and necessary for many individuals, as well as routine tests and treatments sometimes denied to transgender individuals based on the association with a specific gender.

Lara added, “As the Trump Administration continues its attacks on the LGBTQ community, I want transgender Californians to know that we will continue to protect them from discrimination and health insurers to know that we are reviewing their policies closely to make sure they comply with all applicable California laws and regulations.”

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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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