NJ Senate Advances Bill to Protect Transgender Health Care Rights

A bill meant to protect transgender rights in the health care system is moving through the state Senate. Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Legislation aimed at protecting transgender people from discrimination in New Jersey’s health care marketplace cleared the state Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday.

The Assembly passed the bill in March and the next step is a vote in the full Senate, likely in the coming weeks.

“Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide,” Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), a bill sponsor, said in a statement. “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.”

The bill would prohibit the practice of denying, canceling or limiting health care coverage or contracts due to gender identity. It would also bar insurers from designating gender identity as a pre-existing condition and denying gender transition services if those services are otherwise available. The plan affects health plans and contracts under Medicair and New Jersey’s Individual Health Coverage Program, Small Employer Health Benefits Program, State Health Benefits Program and School Employees’ Health Benefits Program, among others.

If the full Senate passes the bill, it would head to Gov. Chris Christie.

In 2015, Christie vetoed a bill that would have permitted New Jersey residents who have had gender reassignment surgery to amend their gender designation on their birth certificates. When a North Carolina law prohibiting transgender people from using public bathrooms for the gender they identify with made headlines in 2016, Christie said he would likely not support similar legislation in New Jersey.

NJ Senate Advances Bill to Protect Transgender Health Care Rights