The campaign for safe and affordable healthcare for all people, including trans and gender non conforming New Yorkers saw a clear victory on December 17th when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Department of Health will now cover transgender healthcare. This decision reverses 16 years of healthcare discrimination that denied trans and gender non conforming people access to necessary medical care, often the exact same treatments and procedures that cis people had access to under Medicaid.
I believe this campaign was so successful because people currently navigating oppression are not only powerful and capable of changing the world (and winning campaigns) but because we’re also brilliant strategists and have first hand insight into what the obstacles to change are, whether in NYC or in New York State, who we can bring into our cause and ultimately how to make transformation irresistible. The campaign could not have happened without the 16 years of petitions, meetings, strategy sessions, direct actions, marches in freezing weather, marches in blazing hot weather, media brilliance, public service videos and the willingness of putting ourselves on the line to create a community where we all have the care we need.
Passed in 1998, the previous regulation banned access to hormones and all surgeries commonly sought by transgender people. The effects of this regulation were incredibly violent for trans people as thousands of low income trans people and trans people of color were cut off from life-saving care and denied much-needed treatments. Healthcare for transgender people isn’t special healthcare, it’s regular healthcare that non-trans people receive every day when they need it.
As the National Center For Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found: transgender people live in poverty at 4 times the national average, a staggering 19% of transgender people report lacking any form of health insurance, including Medicaid. The truth is that covering trans healthcare has always been affordable through insurance plans. As Basic Rights Oregon Points out: No jurisdiction, employer or insurance company which covers trans health care has found the cost to be prohibitive. in 2011 the city of Portland determined that the cost increase was only .08% of its healthcare insurance budget. The city and county of San Francisco have provided comprehensive coverage for years with research showing no discernible cost.
There is still more to fight for even with this announcement. As SRLP pointed out: “The newly proposed regulation is not perfect – we would like to see care covered for young people under 18, and we would like to see all forms of gender-affirming care covered. But this is a great start.”
New York needs to allow for all healthcare treatments and procedures for trans and gender non conforming people, not just some. The proposed regulations don’t go far enough in terms of what is covered but I do think it is a clear victory and demonstration of the organizing and transformative power of trans and gender non conforming people who are low income and or people of color and our community at large and I am incredibly proud of all the brilliant leaders in our community who made this possible!