Despite Medicaid ban on transgender healthcare, NY Health Commissioner says he's "working hard" on transgender issues

Yesterday, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) and allies voiced concerns at New York's Population Health Summit, an educational public health event held by Health Commissioner Nirav. R. Shah, calling for the repeal of a discriminatory regulation in the state's Medicaid program that bans transgender and gender non-conforming people from accessing healthcare they need. Commissioner Shah's response to a question about whether the New York Department of Health will work with SRLP to repeal the regulation, which was recorded by SRLP members and in a webcast from the event, can be read below.

"Thank you for your comments, I really appreciate your spotlighting certainly one of the bigger disparities we need to face and confront as a society," said Shah. "The issues are absolutely real, and we are working hard with the Governor's commitment to try to address these issues as broadly as possible. New York has been a leader, and continues to be a leader, in promoting transgender issues, and I would love to continue the conversation after this directly with you and with your folks."

Despite Shah’s seemingly concerned statement, members of SRLP who had been displaying a banner calling for trans-inclusive Medicaid during his answer were told to leave the Health Summit immediately, and were followed to the door. Shah’s comments are confusing given his previous reception of concerns about the regulation. Recently, the New York Department of Health failed to respond to requests for comment from Al Jazeera for a report on SRLP and GLAAD’s Healthcare for All campaign. In 2011, after the New York Post reported that a Medicaid Redesign Task Force had proposed covering healthcare for transgender people under Medicaid, Shah told the Associated Press, “No consideration is being given to any change in current state policy and any proposal to have gender reassignment surgery funded by Medicaid would be rejected.”

SRLP, a New York-based legal aid organization that serves low-income people and people of color who are transgender and gender non-conforming, was present at the summit as part of an ongoing campaign, created with GLAAD, which highlights the need for safe and accessible healthcare for transgender people. The campaign includes a series of PSA videos featuring transgender advocates and allies that have been viewed nearly 100,000 times. You can watch the full series of videos here.

In conjunction with the campaign, Reina Gossett, a transgender woman who appears in the PSA series, launched a petition calling New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Shah to repeal Medicaid's discriminatory regulation. The petition has over 2,000 signatures.

“For years, Shah has ignored the healthcare needs of trans and gender non-conforming people, and the voices of healthcare officials like the American Medical Association, urging Medicaid and other insurers to cover all necessary care for trans people, including transition related care,” said Reina Gossett. “Shah was been presented with study after study showing healthcare coverage for trans people does not increase costs.  We have shown him that healthcare for trans people isn't special care, whether it’s preventative care or hormone therapy, its just the same healthcare non-trans people rely on every day, but that is specifically denied to trans people. If Shah truly wants New York to be a leader in transgender issues he will stop ignoring our community's needs by ending discrimination against trans people in the Department of Health's Medicaid program.”



Join GLAAD and Sylvia Rivera Law Project in raising awareness about health care discrimination and taking action to bring about Healthcare For All.

Share all three videos on social media.

Sign the petition to repeal the New York State Medicaid regulation denying coverage to trans and gender non-conforming people.

For more information, visit and