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Bill Would Expand Access To Healthcare For Trans Virginians

Delegate Danica Roem
Del. Danica Roem says insurers are already required to pay for gender reassignment treatments and surgeries prescribed by doctors and her bill would codify that in state law. (Craig Carper/VPM News)

Virginia lawmakers continue to clear sweeping protections for members of the LGBTQ community. In the last days of the legislative session the Senate is slated to take a final vote on a bill that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in healthcare.

Many healthcare providers say transgender and gender non-conforming Virginians have a hard time getting medications filled and getting basic healthcare services, like pap smears and annual physicals covered.

Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William), who is transgender herself, said the problems can usually be chalked up to technical issues and misinformation. Roem is sponsoring a bill, that she says, would move to fix some of those problems.

“So when they go to the pharmacy and they get Estradiol, which is estrogen, that if you are assigned male at birth and even though your gender is female, like me, than you shouldn’t have a problem in the system that says, ‘well this is supposed to only be available for cisgender women’,” she said.

The bill also puts Virginia in line with federal regulations from 2017 that require health insurers to provide gender reassignment surgery and medications if a doctor says it’s medically necessary. 

Afton Bradley, a nurse at Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, spoke in favor of the bill in a Senate committee meeting Monday. 

“We have seen if individuals are not able to get access to the care they need, they may often turn to buying prescriptions online, on the street or sharing medications which can have severe health consequences,” he said.

Jeff Caruso with the Virginia Catholic Conference spoke against the bill in committee. Caruso said this is not something the diocese would cover in its health plans and there may be other faith traditions with similar beliefs.

“This bill has no religious exemption to account for these sincerely held beliefs and this raises a significant first amendment concern,” he said.

The last day of the 2020 General Assembly session is Saturday, March 7.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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