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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 10, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 23
Portland strikes down Transgender insurance exclusions
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Portland strikes down Transgender insurance exclusions

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Portland City Council voted unanimously to end health insurance discrimination against Transgender city employees on June 8.

Portland now becomes the third jurisdiction in the country to cover gender transition expenses, including gender reassignment surgeries. The others are Multnomah County - which includes Portland - and San Francisco.

'This is huge,' Basic Rights Oregon said in a statement shortly after the vote.

'Portland is now the third municipality in the country to provide Trans-inclusive care to their employees, and Oregon is a clear leader in the national efforts to end insurance discrimination against Transgender communities.'

Basic Rights Oregon's Transgender justice organizer Aubrey Harrison credited her Trans rights working group and Portland Mayor Sam Adams for the victory.

Adams, who is openly Gay, announced on May 31 that he would sponsor the ordinance and introduce it at the June 8 City Council meeting.

'As mayor, it is important to me that we attract and retain the best and brightest employees to the City of Portland. Offering non-discriminatory health care benefits - as leading employers like Nike, Google, Microsoft, and IBM do - is one way to accomplish that goal,' Adams said in his May 31 statement.

'Covering basic, medically necessary care is a matter of fairness, and it's the right thing to do.'

Adams noted that the American Medical Association (AMA) has identified Transgender health care as being medically necessary, in a statement released after the June 8 vote.

In 2008, the AMA passed a resolution opposing 'exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when prescribed by a physician.'

Portland's CityCore insurance plan - which covers some 60% of city employees - already provides coverage for prescription medications, including hormone therapy for Trans employees, office visits, mental health counseling, and other benefits.

CityCore is Portland's self-insurance plan, through which employees pay into a publicly managed fund, which then covers their medical expenses when necessary. Portland city employees who are not covered by CityCore are covered by a private Kaiser plan.

Mayor Adams and all the city commissioners spoke in favor of the new ordinance at the June 8 Council meeting.

'To the Trans community of Portland, who each and every day makes this city a better place, it is my honor and privilege to serve on a City Council that can bring an ounce of fairness in return,' Adams said.

Unlike in Seattle, the Portland mayor is also a voting City Council member. The council also includes four commissioners and an auditor.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said, 'I appreciate living in a city and serving on a City Council where we look at what is the right thing to do & even if it's not politically popular.'

Commissioner Nick Fish said, 'This city does not discriminate; it does not make judgments about people's status. I believe today is a leadership moment, with the mayor leading us effectively on this issue and I am proud, as a member of this community, to vote aye.'

In testimony at the Council meeting, Basic Rights Oregon's executive director, Jeana Frazzini, underlined the importance of eliminating exclusions for Trans health care.

'Without health insurance, many Transgender people have no access to health care and have nowhere to turn if they develop health problems,' she said. 'This discrimination is all too common and can lead to serious - even life-threatening - conditions.'

According to Adams, the additional cost for adding coverage for sexual reassignment surgery is projected to be only $32,302 out of a total $41,615,000 CityCore budget for 2011-12 - a .08% increase.

'The city believes that adding this coverage is appropriate and does not add a significant cost to the plan,' Adams said.

The City of Seattle is currently considering the adoption of similar benefits.

Currently, 22% of Fortune 100 companies offer Trans-inclusive health care to all their employees.

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