Starting next January, the city of Portland will offer transgender health services to city employees as part of its health care coverage, city officials announced Wednesday.

The announcement, which removes an exclusion for transgender health services in the current health coverage, comes during Portland’s 10-day Pride celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and just days after a deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida prompted a nationwide discussion of civil rights and equal protections for all people.

City Manager Jon Jennings, who instituted the change, said it wasn’t related to recent events.

“This has been in the works for many, many months,” said Jennings. “I just believe it was the right thing to do.”

On Monday, the Portland City Council will vote on a resolution endorsing the change.

“It is the public policy of the city to prohibit discrimination against transgender people,” Mayor Ethan Strimling said. “Through this resolution, we are making it clear that we support health care services for transgender people in order to protect the health, safety and the quality of life for all residents in the city.”

Transgender health services include a range of services, from counseling to medical interventions.

Those interventions can include hormone therapy to either block or develop secondary sex traits or sex reassignment surgery options.

On Wednesday, EqualityMaine, Maine Trans Net, the ACLU of Maine and Consumers for Affordable Health Care issued a joint statement urging the council to pass the resolution.

“Transgender employees, just like everyone else, need access to medically necessary treatment. Every major medical association has affirmed that transition-related health care for transgender people is vital and improves health and well-being, and this represents an important step forward in expanding health coverage to transgender Mainers,” said Gia Drew, president of Maine Trans Net.

More than 60 cities in the United States have made similar changes to remove exclusions for transgender health care coverage, including San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, as well as Boston, Cambridge, Worcester, Providence and Burlington in New England.

Portland officials have previously taken a progressive stance on transgender issues.

In April, the mayor and city council banned non-essential travel by city employees to North Carolina and Mississippi after those states stripped civil rights protections for gay and transgender people.

Increasingly, medical costs for transgender patients, including gender reassignment surgery, are covered by insurance and Medicare.

Some states, such as Massachusetts, have anti-discrimination statutes that prevent health insurance companies from barring coverage for transgender patients.

In May, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity for programs receiving federal funds, including health insurance programs participating in Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

The Obama administration also eliminated transgender health care exclusions for federal employees in January.

Portland, which self-insures its employees, is not affected by the federal rule, Jennings said.

 


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