Cincinnati, Ohio To Offer Transgender Surgery Benefits
Yes you read that right. Cincinnati, Ohio.
Medically necessary “transgender” procedures will be covered under the City of Cincinnati’s health insurance starting next year.
The reason: To help Cincinnati lure businesses and citizens.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve worked to make this city as competitive and inclusive as possible,” said Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly gay councilman. “This is a another step in that direction.”
Seelbach led a council majority in signing a letter urging the change.
Cincinnati would be the first city in Ohio to offer transgender procedures in its health benefits, according to a statewide advocacy group.
Shane Morgan, founder and chair of TransOhio, which provides education and advocacy, praised city officials.
“For Cincinnati to cover their trans employees – because there are trans employees who work there – is great,” Morgan said. “Hopefully cities elsewhere in Ohio will follow that.”
In recent years city officials have worked to include and embrace the LGBT community – a transformation recently noted on National Public Radio’s website. In June, the city began offering a domestic partner registry, paving the way for more companies to offer benefits to gay couples.
And in recent years the city started offering same-sex benefits to all city employees; the police department, fire department and mayor’s office all have liaison officers to the LGBT community.
Council last year passed regulations requiring anyone who contracts with the city to agree in writing to an inclusive nondiscrimination policy. And, the city’s hate crimes law that included race and gender was expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Including transgender procedures should give Cincinnati a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, making Cincinnati one of the most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly cities in the country.
Interim Cincinnati City Manager Scott Stiles initiated the transgender insurance change, but was encouraged to act by a majority of City Council; In addition to Seelbach: PG Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson, David Mann and Wendell Young signed the letter. Of course anti-gay city counselor Charles Winburn did not.
“It is important that we provide necessary medical benefits to all of our employees,” Stiles said. “This positions us well for progress and keeps the City competitive as an employer.”
As interim city manager, Stile made the decision, alerting Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of the change Aug. 22.
In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lifted its ban on funding medically necessary procedures for people who don’t identify with their biological sex.
Cincinnati joins cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Berkeley and Portland in offering transgender procedures. For the surgery to be “medically necessary” a professional mental health counselor would have to sign off on it.
Several Fortune 500 companies – including Procter & Gamble and US Bank currently offer transgender inclusive benefits.