As New York celebrated Pride, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced a series of actions to assure transgender people in the state have access to health care, including transition-related care such as gender reassignment surgery.
Cuomo announced the order at Pride breakfast in New York City, citing plans by the Trump administration to rollback a rule under the Affordable Care Act against anti-trans discrimination in health care.
“New York was founded upon the principles of fairness and equality and we won’t stand idly by while Washington seeks to claw back hard-earned rights and protections,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For every step the Trump Administration takes backwards, New York will take two steps forward, and these regulations will guarantee and expand protections for transgender New Yorkers to help ensure every resident has equal access to health care.”
According to Cuomo’s office, the Trump administration’s plan to undo the rule under Obamacare would leave around 90,300 transgender people vulnerable to transgender discrimination in health care. The proposed rule change is before the White House, but the Trump administration has yet to pull the trigger.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of New York Civil Liberties Union, was among those who hailed the change enacted by Cuomo.
“These measures are an important step to ensure that all New Yorkers can access the health care they need, regardless of gender identity,” Lieberman said. “As the Trump administration continues its attack on the dignity and health of trans people, New York is once again stepping up, as it must, to protect all New Yorkers.”
Under the order, Cuomo directed the State Department of Health to issue a regulation requiring all New York hospitals to update their statements of patient rights to prohibit discrimination against transgender patients.
Further, Cuomo has directed the State Department of Financial Services to issue new regulations to expand the scope of anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals seeking access to health insurance.
According to Cuomo’s office, Obamacare prohibits anti-trans discrimination in individual and small group health insurance policies, but does nothing for large group policies. Under Cuomo’s order, DFS will go beyond that scope and bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the administration of large group policies.
Glennda Testone, executive director of the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, said in a statement Cuomo was standing up to the Trump administration with his order.
“I applaud the governor’s efforts to counter damaging actions the federal government has threatened to make against our community,” Testone said. “Under his leadership, New Yorkers will not be stripped of their health care rights and will have access to the resources and assistance needed to lead quality lives in the greatest state there is.”
The actions build on an order Cuomo signed in 2015 interpreting New York’s Human Rights Law, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex, to apply to cases of anti-trans discrimination. That order applied to employment, housing providers and credit, but made no explicit protections in health care.
For years because of Republican control of the New York Senate, the New York state legislature has been unable to pass legislation known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, which would make anti-trans discrimination unlawful in New York. Just last month, a Senate committee killed the legislation following passage of the bill in the Democratic Assembly.
Cuomo also issues the order as he faces a challenge in a Democratic primary from “Sex and the City” star and queer actress Cynthia Nixon. On Sunday, Nixon revealed her eldest child is transgender. The New York primary for state elections is Sept. 13.
Kiara St. James, executive director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, also praised Cuomo in a statement for the action.
“In New York, we are lucky to have a tireless leader that has fought for the rights of every single resident in this state, and this latest action ensures that basic and critical health care services will be provided to everyone, regardless of gender identity.”