Republican lawmakers target transgender health insurance coverage


ST. PAUL—A bill introduced Monday in the Minnesota House of Representatives would free health insurance companies from having to cover gender transitions.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, introduced the measure Monday. With the proposal, it would be enshrined in state law that insurers don't have to cover "health services related to gender transition, including but not limited to sex reassignment surgery." The bill contradicts provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act that prohibit discrimination, but a paragraph of the bill stipulates it won't take full effect until the ACA is repealed.

The ACA prohibits covered insurers from implementing "a categorical coverage exclusion or limitation for all health services related to gender transition" or otherwise denying or limiting coverage in such a way that causes discrimination against transgender people.

Last year, Gruenhagen authored a bill that would mandate transgender people use the public bathroom that corresponds with their sex at birth, not the one they identify as. In 2013, he called homosexuality an "unhealthy, sexual addiction," the Star Tribune reported.

Gruenhagen's newest bill regarding transgender rights also directs the state Department of Commerce commissioner to seek a waiver of the non-discrimination portion of the Affordable Care Act so insurers don't have to cover gender transitions.

Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, is a sponsor of the bill. He said Tuesday that for-profit insurance companies, which only days earlier were granted access to operate in Minnesota, were "feeling pressure" to offer gender transition coverage. Asked whether his support of the bill was linked with his perception of the transgender lifestyle, he said Democrats had legislated their morality by installing the non-discrimination portion in the first place.

"This has to do with allowing the consumer market to make some choices that apparently some folks have had strong feelings on, and legislated their morality," he said.

An attempt to contact fellow bill sponsor Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, through a spokesperson was not immediately successful.

The bill, House File 1183, was referred to the House's Health and Human Services Reform Committee for a possible hearing.