Sylvia Rivera Law Project takes action at NY Health Summit, calls for trans-inclusive Medicaid

A Change.org petition with over 2,000 signatures supports repealing a discriminatory regulation banning trans people from accessing necessary healthcare

Rich Ferraro
Vice President of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011
ferraro@glaad.org

Dani Heffernan
Media Strategist, GLAAD
(646) 871-8046
heffernan@glaad.org 

December 3, 2013


NEW YORK, NY – The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) today voiced concerns at the Population Health Summit, an educational public health event held by New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav R. Shah, calling for the repeal of a state Medicaid regulation that specifically excludes transgender people from accessing the healthcare they need. Members of SRLP displayed a banner and handed out flyers to educate Health Summit attendees about the regulation and its harmful repercussions for transgender New Yorkers. SRLP's presence at the event is part of an ongoing campaign, created in partnership with GLAAD, which launched in November and includes a series of PSA videos featuring transgender advocates and allies highlighting the critical issue of healthcare access for transgender people. Photos of today's direct action are available at http://www.glaad.org/blog/srlp-leads-direct-action-ny-health-summit-calling-end-healthcare-discrimination-transgender.

The previously released PSA videos feature Reina Gossett, a transgender woman working in New York City who launched a Change.org petition calling Governor Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Shah to repeal the discriminatory New York State Medicaid regulation. The petition has more than 2,000 signatures, and the PSA videos have been viewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube. The videos can be viewed at www.glaad.org/healthcare.

In addition to Reina Gossett, advocates and allies featured in the PSA videos include Stephen Ira, a transgender writer; Egyptt, a transgender activist and performer; Ronica Mukerjee, MSN and family nurse practitioner; Finn Brigham, a healthcare administrator; and Maureen Ridge, an ally, advocate, and parent of Reina.

The discriminatory Medicaid regulation states, “Payment is not available for care, services, drugs, or supplies rendered for the purpose of gender reassignment (also known as transsexual surgery) or any care, services, drugs, or supplies intended to promote such treatment.” 18 NYCRR 505.2(l).

"For years now, our community has politely asked Commissioner Shah to repeal Medicaid's discriminatory policy and practice that denies trans and gender non-conforming people safe and affordable healthcare," said advocate and petition starter Reina Gossett. "But Shah refuses to act. We are here to tell him we will no longer put up with discrimination.  Everyone deserves safe and affordable healthcare, including trans and gender non-conforming New Yorkers."

"The health imperative for treating transgender patients is very high," said Ronica Mukerjee, MSN. "Not allowing transgender people access to the healthcare they need, including hormones, creates serious health issues for these patients. Medicaid should not be left behind in what is clearly a necessary move. As the world of medicine increasingly sees the need for lesbian and gay-friendly healthcare services, the health of transgender patients must be included."

"For Medicaid to exclude one group of people from accessing the healthcare they need, just because of their gender identity, is discriminatory," said GLAAD's Wilson Cruz. "Transgender people in New York are still not protected from bias under the law. Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Shah should do the right thing and repeal the harmful regulation."

Like New York State Medicaid, many health insurance policies and programs specifically exclude transgender people from accessing care. However, in some cities and private health insurance plans with inclusive coverage, transgender people have access to healthcare, without increased premiums or surcharges. While transgender people live in poverty at four times the national average, a staggering 19% of transgender people report lacking any form of health insurance, including Medicaid.

For more information, visit www.srlp.org/healthcare and www.glaad.org/healthcare.