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Oregon Moves to Increase Access to Health Care for Low-Income Transgender Residents

Nina Liss-Schultz

State officials in Oregon voted to ensure access to a full range of transition-related care for the state’s poorest transgender residents.

On Thursday, state officials in Oregon voted to ensure access to a full range of transition-related care for the state’s poorest transgender residents.

After a lengthy review process beginning in April this year, members of the Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC), a 13-member board tasked with defining the state’s coverage priorities, decided to add “gender dysphoria” to the list of medical conditions with treatments covered by the government-funded health program.

HERC had not reviewed the state’s treatment of transgender care since 1999.

“This vote means that, for the first time in the history of the Oregon Health Plan, a comprehensive continuum of healthcare will be available for the treatment of Gender Dysphoria,” Danielle Askini, policy director of Basic Rights Oregon, said in a statement. “Removing transgender exclusions in healthcare coverage saves lives and money. All major health provider associations agree: It is time to end health coverage discrimination based on gender identity.”

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Gender dysphoria is understood by the Diagnostic and Statistical of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition in which a person’s lived gender identity is different than the gender they were assigned by a doctor at birth, and is the diagnosis transgender people will be given in order to receive insurance coverage for transition-related health care.

Some transgender-specific health-care services were added to the Oregon Health Plan in 2013, including psychotherapy, medical visits, and medications to suppress puberty in transgender youth.

Starting in 2015, however, low-income transgender Oregonians will have access to hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.

According to, the website of the Oregonian, some 935,000 people are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. The new rules have an estimated “utilization rate” of 175 people in any 12-month period, and will cost the state less than $150,000 in that period.

According to the Advocate, since 2012 Oregon has required all private insurance plans to cover transition-related care, and was the first state to include such care in its Medicaid plan. Since Oregon’s changes, states have made similar moves, and some eight states now have policies that increase access to health care for transgender people.

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