HARRISBURG — A notice issued earlier this month by Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller prohibits insurance companies from discriminating based on gender identity, but doesn't require any specific coverage for procedures.

Miller recently notified insurance companies that are under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, they cannot deny services based on a person’s gender identity and can’t issue policies with a blanket exclusion on services related to a person’s gender transition.

Jeremy F. Heinnickel, an attorney with Saul Ewing LLP, said that for most insurers, the biggest change will be a notice they’ll be required to include in their policies that specifies they comply with federal civil rights laws, that they don’t discriminate based on gender identity, that they won’t deny services based on gender identity and that they won’t deny or limit coverages related to gender transition if doing so would result in discrimination.

“(T)his guidance does not require insurers to cover any particular services that they are not otherwise required to cover,” Heinnickel told the Pennsulvania Record.

“For example, the guidance does not expressly require an insurance company to offer coverage for a gender reassignment procedure. However, if a few months down the road, an insured person must be hospitalized due to complications resulting from the surgery, the guidance prevents the insurer from categorically denying coverage for these complications because they relate to gender transition.”

The guidance likely came because of the executive orders Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued in April that prohibits agencies under the governor’s authority from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity. In a news release accompanying the orders, Wolf blasted North Carolina and Mississippi for passing legislation barring transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

“While the governors of North Carolina and Mississippi have signed into law deplorable legislation targeting LGBT people, Gov. Wolf is standing up and sending a completely different message – one that tells the world Pennsylvania is a welcoming state that values diversity and human dignity,” the release said.

Wolf also called on the state Legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity statewide.

“I think the governor’s and commissioner’s actions are influenced by the controversy in North Carolina, but also the fact that the Pennsylvania Legislature has also not yet passed the Pennsylvania Fairness Act,” Heinnickel said.

Pennsylvania’s move follows that of several other states that have required insurers to not discriminate based on gender identity.

“In December 2013, Connecticut’s Insurance Department issued a similar bulletin related to gender identity nondiscrimination,” Heinnickel said.

“The Connecticut department’s position barring gender identity discrimination was partially based on the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which specifically prohibit discrimination based on ‘gender identity or expression.’ In addition to Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont are among some of the other states that have issued similar guidance.”

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