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Illinois warns insurers of discrimination ban

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 11:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 11:38 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois regulators issued a reminder to health insurers that it is illegal to deny coverage to someone because they are transgender, drawing praise from the gay rights community.

The bulletin, which was dated Monday and announced Tuesday, notes that both new and amended policy filings should comply with provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Mental Health Parity Act – which prohibit discrimination against transgender persons because of general identity or health conditions.

The guidance also reminds insurers that it is illegal to deny coverage based on someone's gender identity.

Backers say the move was prompted by concerns for transgender people's rights, a focus for some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights advocates after Illinois legalized same-sex marriage this year. Health care coverage in Illinois now applies to same-sex spouses.

"I would say in the last several years this has been an issue that has been percolating around the entire country, not just in Illinois, to make sure that were not being denied coverage because of some external characteristic," state Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and sponsor of the state's same-sex marriage legislation, said.

Other states, including California, Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, have also reminded insurers that do business in their states about what the law says regarding discrimination. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights advocates applauded Illinois' actions.

"This guidance helps ensure parity in health care coverage, making certain that services such as mental health care, cancer screenings and hormone therapy are routinely covered for transgender people when the insurer provides those services to non-transgender policy holders," John Peller, interim president and CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said in a statement.

However, some question the move. The Illinois Family Institute's Executive Director David Smith said the guidelines put some religious business owners in a position that forces them to compromise their faiths.

"To succumb and be made to submit to a rule that violates their freedom of conscience," Smith said.

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