OLYMPIA – A bill that would require health insurers to cover medically necessary gender affirming treatment in their health plans was approved by the Senate by a vote of 30-17 on Friday.

SB 5313, also known as the Gender Affirming Treatment Act and is sponsored by State Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood), would prohibit health insurers from denying or limiting coverage for gender affirming treatment that is consistent with a protected gender expression or identity, is medically necessary, and is prescribed in accordance with accepted standards of care.

Many health plans in Washington state classify gender confirmation treatment as cosmetic and therefore such treatment is often not included in health insurance plans.

“There is still one remaining area of profound discrimination in our health care system, which is the care that our transgender Washingtonians need,” said Liias. “Gender confirmation treatment is medically necessary for many in our transgender community, but they are not able to access this treatment because it is considered cosmetic by many health plans. The goal is to ensure every Washingtonian has access to medically necessary care that allows them to lead healthy, productive lives. And to achieve the health equity and health outcomes we wish for every single Washingtonian.”

Liias cited a few studies that show expanding access to gender confirmation treatment leads to improved health outcomes during his testimony in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee on February 3. According to the American Medical Association:

  • Members of the transgender community are three times more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders.
  • Individuals with gender dysphoria who have undergone no gender confirmation treatment are twice as likely to experience moderate-to-severe depression and four times likely to experience anxiety compared to their surgically affirmed peers.
  • Suicidality rates drop from 30% for pre-treatment transgender people to 8% who are post-treatment.

SB 5313 will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. It has until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.

The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.

Additional Information

Sen. Liias: Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee Public Testimony