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Manchester aldermen say yes to sex change coverage

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 18. 2016 10:41PM

MANCHESTER — City aldermen voted Tuesday to offer transgender-inclusive health-care benefits — such as sex change surgery — to municipal employees and their families covered under city health insurance plans.

The vote was 10-2 in favor, with Alderman At Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur abstaining until he could receive more information.

Voting in favor were Aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Ron Ludwig, Pat Long, Chris Herbert, Tony Sapienza, Dan O’Neil, Bill Shea, Barbara Shaw, Bill Barry, and Normand Gamache.

Opposed were Keith Hirschmann and Nick Pappas. Alderman Tom Katsiantonis of Ward 8 was absent.

Mayor Ted Gatsas had made an argument that aldermen should wait to vote until they are required to make a decision on the benefits, sometime next April or May. Aldermen voted instead to approve the benefits, which are effective July 1, 2017.

“I would veto the motion but you have the votes to override the veto, so I see no reason to continue the conversation,” said Gatsas.

Aldermen took up the matter in response to a request from Human Resources Director Jane Gile asking the city to instruct health insurance provider Anthem to “remove all transgender exclusions or limitations of coverage for all health services related to gender transition from the templates of the city’s medical benefit plan.”

Aldermen were acting on a 3-2 vote by the Aldermanic Committee on Human Resources and Insurance Committee recommending the city drop the transgender health care exclusions. Aldermen Long, Ludwig and Katsiantonis voted in favor of dropping the exclusion, with Shea and Hirschmann opposed.

Hirschmann made a motion to send the matter back to committee for further study, requesting additional information from Anthem on whether establishing a rider program could be set up, so that only employees seeking the services would pay.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be passing costs along to all our employees,” Hirschmann said.

Gile told city aldermen Anthem has announced it will remove the exclusion for gender identity disorders and sex change surgery from its coverage offerings — on both fully and self-insured plans — come Jan. 1, 2017, in accordance with ACA Section 1557, nondiscriminatory provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1557 prohibits most insurers from discriminating on the basis of sex — including gender identity — when providing health coverage.

“I’ve never supported discriminating against anyone,” said O’Neil. “I’m not going to start now.”

“I am of the opinion it’s not cosmetic,” Long said. “One of the procedures takes up to a year to even be allowed to proceed.”

Gile estimates the cost to add transgender services to the city health plan to be between 80 cents and $1.10 per member, per month.

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