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Office of Mental Health

NOVEMBER 20, 2019 | Albany, NY

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Protect Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming New Yorkers

Directs DFS to Propose New Regulations to Further Protect Access to Health Insurance for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Individuals

Directs DHR to Develop Public Awareness Campaign for GENDA

At Governor's Direction, Civil Service Eliminates Barriers to Gender-Affirming Procedures for State's Empire Plan

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new actions to protect transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. The Governor directed the Department of Financial Services to propose new actions to further protect access to health insurance for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. The Governor also directed the Division of Human Rights to develop a GENDA public awareness campaign that would launch in January for the one year anniversary of the signing of that landmark legislation.

"New York is the proud home of the LGBTQ rights movement, and this year we've built on that legacy by enacting critical protections for transgender individuals," Governor Cuomo said.

"Transgender and gender nonconforming people still face discrimination and violence every day, and these critical measures send a clear message that New York will always stand up for every single member of our LGBTQ family no matter what happens in Washington."

New York State has some of the strongest protections in the nation for access to health insurance for transgender New Yorkers. Yet, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals still face denials for medically necessary, life-saving care. To further protect access for transgender and gender non-conforming coverage in commercial health care plans, DFS will propose action to:

  • Issue regulations to codify current DFS circular letters regarding coverage for gender dysphoria, coverage for non-gender specific services, and coverage for PrEP;
  • Issue regulations to clarify prohibitions of gender identity discrimination in health insurance;
  • Require external appeal agents with experience in transgender health to the extent practicable;
  • Work with the Office of Mental Health to prohibit categorical exclusions in insurance plans for gender-affirming services so that individuals receive the medical necessity review they deserve.

At the Governor's direction, the Department of Civil Service has also eliminated any additional barriers to accessing gender-affirming procedures in the State's Empire Plan. The Empire Plan is the health plan option for more than 1 million state and local government employees and their family members. Access to gender-affirming services in the Empire Plan serves as a model for health insurers throughout New York State and nationally and builds upon New York's efforts to ensure equal rights and protections for all.

On January 25, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, signifying a landmark victory for the LGBTQ community. DHR will launch a public education campaign to spread awareness about these protections. That campaign will include additional know your rights materials, legal guidance to employers, landlords, and others about their obligations under the law, and an event to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the signing of GENDA. GENDA prohibits employers, educational institutions, landlords, creditors and others from discriminating against individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression, and make offenses committed on the basis of gender identity or expression hate crimes under New York State law.

Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell said, "New York has zero tolerance for any attempts to encroach on the rights of individuals, especially access to quality healthcare. As the federal government continues to trample on protections for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, New York will continue to uphold these unquestionable, basic human rights and we remind Washington to do their job to protect all individuals, especially those who have historically faced discrimination."

Division of Human Rights Commissioner Angela Fernandez said, "On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honor the memory of transgender individuals who have lost their lives to hate-based violence. The Division of Human Rights stands with the transgender community and will work to ensure that all New Yorkers know their rights and obligations under the Human Rights Law. New York State will hold individuals who engage in bias and discrimination based on gender identity accountable for their actions."

Department of Civil Service Acting Commissioner Lola W. Brabham said, "New York State has been a national leader in championing LGBTQ rights and under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we continue to take unprecedented steps to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, are treated equally and can live free from discrimination. The expansion of the Empire Plan exemplifies the Governor's unwavering support for the LGBTQ community and should be considered a model for all health plans across the nation."

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