2000px-US-DeptOfHHS-Logo.svgNew rules released today by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights would protect from discrimination based on gender identity in healthcare and insurance.

The regulations include everything from routine medical exams to transition-related care.

Many health system voluntarily cover these services already, but the proposed rule would fill a crucial need in healthcare for transgender individuals, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“The Department of Health and Human Service’s proposed rules have the potential to be life-saving for transgender people. The medical and scientific consensus for years has been that transition-related care is medically necessary and should be covered by insurance,” she said.

National LGBT groups praised the proposed rule.

Julie Gonen, policy director the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the rule a bold move.

“We applaud the agency for taking such a strong position and developing regulations that are consistent with the goal of Section 1557, which is to eradicate discrimination in healthcare. The protections outlined in the proposed regulations would ensure that transgender people —including youth — who are routinely denied this care despite decades of clinical experience and medical literature demonstrating its medical necessity can get the healthcare they need to live full, authentic, and healthy lives,” she said in a statement.

“LGBT people have too often faced healthcare and coverage systems that provide inequitable and hostile treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said David Stacy, government affairs director the Human Rights Campaign. “This proposed regulation will help address some of these disparities and is vitally important to help end discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people in healthcare and insurance.”

Both, however, urged the department to also banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by health providers and insurance as well.

“We are pleased the administration has finally proposed these critical protections, and we urge HHS to fully implement the promises of the Affordable Care Act by including both gender identity and sexual orientation as protected characteristics in the final rule,” Stacy added.

President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010. Included in the sweeping law was Section 1557, the first federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care.

Public comment period closes Friday, November 6.