Pennsylvania Lawmakers Are Trying to Prevent Transgender Children from Lower-Income Families from Receiving Health Care

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October 23, 2017
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Juliet Evancho

Pennsylvania lawmakers this week are considering a discriminatory and harmful amendment to the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization legislation that would deny lower-income Pennsylvania transgender youth access to any transition-related health care services, including counseling.

Lambda Legal and the lead client in its successful challenge to an anti-transgender policy at Pine-Richland High School in suburban Pittsburgh issued the following statements:

“This Amendment breaks my heart,” said Juliet Evancho, lead plaintiff in Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District, Lambda Legal’s successful lawsuit against a school district policy that prevented transgender youth from using bathrooms at school that matched who they are.

“Growing up as a transgender woman I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for the care I received," Evancho added. "This amendment will only hurt those trying their absolute best to become themselves. The only way to help lower-income trans youth is by giving them the proper care they need to find themselves.”

“It is unconscionable that Pennsylvania state lawmakers would play politics with the health of unsuspecting lower-income youth, and seek to deny lower-income transgender kids – among the most vulnerable populations in the country – access to critically important transition-related services, especially counseling services,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney and Health Care Strategist at Lambda Legal.

“The challenges transgender youth face are already daunting – to deny them access to medically-necessary care is incredibly cruel and heartless," Gonzalez-Pagan added. "This discriminatory effort must be stopped in its tracks. No one, and most especially a child, should ever have to worry about their access to medical coverage.”

The amendment to HB 1388, the CHIP reauthorization bill, would block Pennsylvania’s insurance plan for lower-income youth from covering any transition-related services, including without limitation surgery, hormones and counseling.

This would essentially prohibit this lower-income youth from accessing these services at all, as they would have no insurance for it.  CHIP is supported by both state and federal funding and provides insurance coverage to uninsured children and teens up to age 19 whose families earn too much to qualify for medical assistance but cannot afford private insurance.

There are about 175,000 Pennsylvania children enrolled in CHIP.