Gender-Affirming Health Insurance Reform in the United States

Ledibabari Mildred Ngaage, Shan Xue, Mimi R. Borrelli, Bauback Safa, Jens U. Berli, Rachel Bluebond-Langner, Yvonne M. Rasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction In May 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services prohibited insurance discrimination of transgender individuals. Despite this, insurance plans often lack explicit guidelines on gender transition-related care and coverage of surgical procedures is extremely varied. We evaluated the evolution of insurance coverage of gender-affirming care following the 2014 legislative change. Methods Insurance providers were selected based on company market share. We conducted a Web-based search and telephone interviews to identify the corresponding policies related to gender-affirming health care. We compared policy changes made before and after the 2014 US Department of Health and Human Services decision. Results Of the 92 insurers surveyed, 7% did not have a policy, and 315 policy revisions were documented. After the legislation, a significantly higher proportion of policy revisions were related to coverage of services (36% vs 11%, P < 0.0001), removal of existing criteria significantly decreased (23% vs 49%, P = 0.0044), and addition of criteria unrelated to international standards sharply increased (32% vs 2%, P = 0.0002). This resulted in reduced coverage of facial feminization, hair transplantation, laryngochondroplasty, and voice modification surgery. However, nipple reconstruction experienced increased coverage. The percentage of revisions to add preauthorization criteria to meet international standards (49% vs 45%, P = 0.6714) or to change terminology (37% vs 27%, P = 0.1055) were similar before and after the legislation. Conclusions After the transformative legislation in 2014, an increasing number of insurance companies established gender transition-related policies. As more patients seek gender-affirming care, insurers deviate from international guidelines and create additional benchmarks that may act as barriers to care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-122
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • feminization
  • gender identity
  • insurance carriers
  • insurance coverage
  • masculinization
  • transgender persons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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