This week, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP)'s Director of Membership, Reina Gossett, spoke at a press conference in Albany, New York, calling for trans-inclusive Medicaid. The press conference was held by Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) as a kick off to LGBT Health Month, which takes place annually in March. This LGBT Health Month, ESPA's theme is "Access to Care" for LGBT New Yorkers, and the launch was attended by advocates, as well as Senators Neil Breslin and Brad Hoylman, and Assembly members Dick Gottfried and Harry Bronson.
Currently, Medicaid in New York specifically denies medically necessary healthcare to transgender people, just because of who they are. Transgender healthcare isn't special care – it is the same healthcare that non-trans people have access to through Medicaid when they need it. However, because of a discriminatory regulation, transgender people are banned from accessing the very same care. Whether it is routine or preventative care, transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers need access to safe, affordable healthcare. SRLP and GLAAD launched a campaign calling for healthcare for all which includes a series of PSA videos that have been viewed nearly 100,000 times, an infographic, and a petition with over 2,600 signatures.
At the press conference, Gossett detailed the damage done to the health of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers by the Medicaid regulation, such as lower compliance with other treatments and the increased likelihood of unsupervised self-medication in the absence of affordable, comprehensive healthcare options. Longtime advocate Reverend Hawk Stone as well as Daniella Carter of the Trans Women of Color Collective of Greater New York (TWOCC) also spoke at the press conference, sharing personal experiences with accessing care and the barriers transgender New Yorkers have to access healthcare.
Following the press conference, Gossett and Carter met with Deputy Secretary of Health Courtney Burke’s office. During the meeting coordinated by the Empire State Pride Agenda, Gossett and Carter stressed the need for ending discrimination in New York Medicaid and other health insurance policies against transgender people. Gossett also mentioned SRLP's recent Freedom of Information Law request asking the NYDOH to release all public comments they received since 1998 concerning their adoption and implementation of the state's regulation barring Medicaid coverage of healthcare for trans and gender non-conforming people. This FOIL request revealed that all the comments adamantly argued against the discriminatory regulation, and in favor of covering transgender health needs.
When asked by Gossett how the NYDOH would respond to sixteen years of public commentary and data supporting an end to the discriminatory regulation in New York Medicaid, the Assistant Deputy Secretary Sally Dreslin said there could be no comment about NYDOH's view of trans-inclusive healthcare at this time. New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah recently called the state a "leader in promoting transgender issues," yet states like California, as well as the District of Columbia, have surpassed New York in providing trans and gender non-conforming people with access to necessary healthcare.
Among supporters for the repeal of New York's Medicaid regulation banning trans healthcare is State Senator Brad Hoylman. Holyman recently wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner Shah, calling for the two leaders to remove the regulation and provide eligible New Yorkers access to essential care. Trans and gender non-conforming New Yorkers need access to comprehensive, safe, and affordable healthcare now, and GLAAD will continue working with SRLP to educate the public about the importance of repealing this harmful Medicaid regulation New York. Find out more about ESPA's LGBT Health Month at www.prideagenda.org/lgbt-health-month, and use #LGBTHealthMonth on social media.