Aloha y’all: Hawaii Legislature passes trans discrimination ban by insurance companies

Posted on 27 Apr 2016 at 2:27pm
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Hawaii state Rep. Chris Lee

While towns, cities, counties and whole states in the South are busy passing laws to keep trans men and women from using the appropriate public restroom facilities, the Hawaii Legislature this week used some common sense and passed a law banning insurance companies from discriminating against transgender patients.

The Hawaii House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 26, passed a law prohibiting insurance companies from denying, canceling or limiting coverage based on a person’s gender identity, according to an Associated Press report.

Democratic state Rep. Chris Lee introduced the bill, which has already passed the state Senate, in the House. “That’s something that’s really critical, especially now when you have state’s around the country moving the other direction, explicitly placing into law the ability to discriminate based on who people perceive themselves to be,” Lee said. “Here in Hawaii, we treat everyone with respect and aloha. We think everyone is created equal and ought to be treated the same.”

Kaleo Ramos, a transgender teacher, hopes the bill will expand access to hormone treatments, and said that people in Hawaii have been denied coverage for essential medical checks like mammograms or screenings for prostate cancer because of the gender listed on their driver’s license.

“We’re talking about people’s existence, their lives,” Ramos said. “This is necessary to their living, because we have so many trans deaths just because they cannot access hormones, or they can’t afford hormones.”

Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott, one of three representatives who opposed the bill, said he is concerned that the bill would mandate insurance coverage of gender-reassignment surgeries, which he said would increase costs for everyone. He suggested that trans people should instead be offered free psychiatric care “instead of trying to address a psychological disorder with a physical solution.”

But Lee noted the bill does not mandate coverage for gender confirmation surgery, but instead simply bans discrimination based on gender identity for services already offered by insurance plans.

Ten jurisdictions around the country have laws or policies banning discriminatory exclusions and denials of treatment based on gender identity, according to Equality Hawaii.

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