The Biden administration has approved Colorado’s request to expand healthcare coverage for transgender individuals by using a Trump-era policy.
The policy, which went into effect in 2018, allows states to redefine what qualifies as essential healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Biden administration used this policy to grant the state’s request to expand healthcare coverage, NBC reports.
Under the new guidelines, healthcare insurers will be required to cover treatment and procedures related to gender-affirming care, which were previously considered cosmetic. Treatments include facial remodeling, eye and lid modifications, laser hair removal, and chest/breast constructive surgery, according to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The changes to coverage will go into effect in January 2023.
“Health care should be in reach for everyone,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement released on Tuesday. “[B]y guaranteeing transgender individuals can access recommended care, we’re one step closer to making this a reality.”
In the same statement, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that expanding coverage is the only way to break down barriers to healthcare access. “Colorado’s expansion of their essential health benefits to include gender-affirming surgery and other treatments is a model for other states to follow and we invite other states to follow suit.”
The expansion comes at a time when some states are restricting access to healthcare for transgender individuals, specifically minors. Earlier this year, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-affirming treatment for trans minors. The bill, which was originally vetoed by governor Asa Hutchinson, was subsequently reinstated by the state’s General Assembly.