What You Need to Know
- New York state has used state regulations to require coverage for gender-affirming treatments.
- Colorado has also added access to an annual mental health wellness exam for all insureds to its EHB package.
- To promote alternatives to opioids, the EHB will include coverage for up to six acupuncture visits per year.
Colorado residents with bodies that conflict with their gender may have an easier time paying for treatment starting in 2023.
The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services announced Tuesday that it has approved Colorado’s plan for updating the state essential health benefits (EHB) package. The plan includes a minimum level of coverage for gender-affirming care.
The new Colorado EHB package also includes access to an annual mental health wellness exam and six acupuncture sessions per year.
Other states have used state laws and regulations to set minimum requirements for gender-affirming care coverage, but Colorado is the first state to build the requirements into its EHB package, federal officials said in the approval announcement.
ACA Essential Health Benefits Package Basics
In the Affordable Care Act system, which took effect in 2014, a state’s EHB package is the list of health care products and services that a major medical insurance policy must cover.
With the exception of some bare-bones “catastrophic plans” sold to young adults and to high-income uninsured people, every individual or small group major medical insurance policy sold in the United States now must cover at least about 60% of the actuarial value of the EHB package.
A policy must cover any product or service included in the EHB package without imposing an annual or lifetime benefits maximum.
The Affordable Care Act itself lists 10 things a major medical insurance policy must cover: hospitalization; outpatient services; emergency services; prescription drugs; lab tests; maternity and newborn care; behavioral health care; chronic disease management and preventive services efforts endorsed by federal advisory panels; dental and vision care for children; and rehabilitation services.
A state can adjust its EHB package to reflect what popular government and commercial plans offer its residents.
The Colorado Gender-Affirming Care Requirements
A Colorado benchmark plan proposal gives an extensive description of the gender-affirming care benefits a major medical policy should offer.
The definition of gender-affirming care includes “medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, such as hormone therapy and genital non-genital surgical procedures,” according to the proposal.
Colorado says additional covered services should include, at a minimum, these 12 items:
- Blepharoplasty (eye and lid modification)
- Face/forehead and/or neck tightening
- Facial bone remodeling for facial feminization
- Genioplasty (chin width reduction)
- Rhytidectomy (cheek, chin, and neck)
- Cheek, chin, and nose implants
- Lip lift/augmentation
- Mandibular angle augmentation/creation/reduction (jaw)
- Orbital recontouring
- Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping)
- Laser or electrolysis hair removal
- Breast/chest surgeries
Many states have adopted laws or regulations that prohibit health insurers from discriminating against people based on gender identity. In many cases, for example, state rules require insurers to cover procedures for dealing with gender identity concerns if they would cover the same procedures for enrollees with no gender identity concerns.