Raleigh, N.C. — The State Health Plan will start covering sex-change surgery and hormone therapy next year to meet federal regulations, but not everyone is happy about it.
Under the Affordable Care Act, "coverage exclusions or limitations for all health services related to gender transition are discriminatory." So, the board that oversees the State Health Plan voted last week to change the plan's rules to comply with the ACA rules.
Failure to comply with the regulations by not adding the coverage could have resulted in penalties, officials said.
The changes, which cover only treatments deemed medically necessary, take effect Jan. 1. The State Treasurer's Office, which administers the health plan, estimates the added coverage will cost $350,000 to $850,000 a year, which they said is equal to a premium increase of less than 1 percent.
"This is a welcome change to bring our state employee health plan into the 21st century," LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina said in a statement.
The North Carolina Family Policy Council is opposed to the new coverage.
"This is yet another consequence of the Obama Administration's reinterpretation of the word 'sex' to include 'gender identity,'" the group said in a statement.
The same interpretation is at the heart of a federal lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2. The U.S. Department of Justice has accused the state of discriminating against transgender people by forcing them to use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates.
State officials allow people who have undergone sex changes to have their birth certificates amended to reflect their new gender.
The State Health Plan provides coverage for more than 600,000 state workers, teachers and retirees and their dependents.