(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Nancy Pinkin, Mila Jasey and Gordon Johnson to prohibit health insurers from denying transgender individuals health care coverage based on gender identity was advanced by the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday.
"Now more than ever, we need to stand up for those who are being marginalized," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide. While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to advance equality for members of the 'LGB' community, much more still needs to be done to help protect our brothers and sisters in the 'T' community."
"Although we've seen greater awareness in recent years of the challenges faced by transgender individuals, they still often face fierce cultural and institutional discrimination," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "It's incumbent upon us as government officials to stand up for all of our constituents who are being ignored or discriminated against by ensuring that we enshrine equality in our laws."
The bill (A-4568) would prohibit health insurers and health maintenance organizations, as well as health benefits plans or contracts which are issued or purchased pursuant to the New Jersey Individual Health Coverage Program, New Jersey Small Employer Health Benefits Program, State Health Benefits Program, and School Employees' Health Benefits Program from discriminating in the provision of coverage on the basis of gender identity or expression. The prohibited discrimination relates to currently covered persons and prospective covered persons.
"No one should fear being denied important health care services because of the gender they identify with," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "This ensures that transgender individuals receive healthcare coverage without discrimination or unfair treatment based on their gender identity."
"Gender identity should not determine a person's ability to access health care," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "This bill ensures that individuals are covered regardless of the gender they identify with, and sends a strong message that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in our state."
"This is not just a matter of right and wrong; it's a matter of life and death," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Very few people can afford to go without health care coverage. Given the current political climate, it is important that we put these policies in place to protect transgender individuals."
Under the bill, the following discriminatory practices would be prohibited:
- Denying, cancelling, limiting, or refusing to issue or new a contract or policy based on gender identity or expression;
- Demanding or requiring a payment or premium that is based on a covered person's gender identity, designating a covered person's or prospective covered person's gender identity
The bill would take place on the first day of the fourth month next following enactment.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in February and the full Assembly, 62-6-7, in March. It will now go to the Senate President for further consideration.