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Nevada's PEBP weighing cost of transgender health coverage


Nevada’s Public Employee Benefit Program, or PEBP, board is currently looking into the cost and benefits of providing transgender health coverage.

Last month, Brock Maylath, president of the Transgender Allies Group in Reno, spoke to the PEBP board asking members to remove a provision that states,

“Any treatment designed to alter physical characteristics of you to those of the opposite sex and any other services, treatments, drugs, or diagnostic procedures or studies related to sex transformations are excluded.”

In other words, any treatment that will change a person’s physical or biological traits, and any condition resulting from this treatment isn’t covered.  This includes hormone therapy, behavioral and psychological counseling and gender reassignment surgery.  All of these treatments are deemed medically necessary for transgender people by the American Medical Association.

The PEBP board voted unanimously in favor of analyzing a “plan design change” that includes removing the exclusionary clause.  The motion came from board member Jeff Garafalo.

“I have some experience with this. I have transgender clients and friends, and business colleagues, and I’ve had exposure to the issue. And I do think the actual cost and the utilization is extremely low.”  

The cost of implementing this change is what the PEBP board is currently investigating. Those figures will help members determine if and how to proceed.  Officials are waiting to comment any further until after they meet again next month. 

At this point there hasn’t been any vocal opposition from the public.

Providing medical insurance coverage to transgender people is a growing national trend.  Companies like Apple, Microsoft and Caesar’s Entertainment already offer these benefits, but some insurance companies are holding back and have argued that being transgender is a choice and therefore any treatment is considered cosmetic.

Maylath says the discrimination and stigma surrounding gender identity has been a major cause for the exclusion.  That’s why he wants to make one thing very clear…
“Gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation. But it has everything to do with how does an individual see themselves, how they relate to other people within our society.”

The PEBP board will meet next month to discuss the results of the cost analysis.  If they decide to move forward and offer transgender health coverage, the change will take effect next summer.

Esther Ciammachilli is a former part-time broadcaster at KUNR Public Radio.
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