Know Your Rights: Healthcare

Receiving gender-affirming care is not only vital to your wellbeing, it's life-saving. A4TE aims to ensure that all transgender and non-binary people can access the trans-related health care that they need.

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What are my rights in insurance coverage?

Federal law prohibits most public and private health plans from discriminating against you because you are transgender. Your health plan should provide coverage for the care that you need. However, many health insurance companies still restrict access to gender affirming care, leaving trans people to face discriminatory denials of our care. You can fight discrimination, and this page will explain how. 

Here are some examples of illegal discrimination in insurance:

  • Health plans can’t have blanket exclusions of transition-related care. For example, a health plan that says that all care related to gender transition is excluded violates the law.
  • Health plans can’t have a categorical exclusion of a specific transition-related procedure. Excluding specific medically necessary procedures that some transgender people need is discrimination. For example, a health plan should not categorically exclude all coverage for facial feminization surgery or impose arbitrary age limits that contradict medical standards of care.
  • An insurance company can’t place limits on coverage for transition-related care if those limits are discriminatory. For example, an insurance company can’t automatically exclude a specific type of procedure if it covers that procedure for non-transgender people. For example, if a plan covers breast reconstruction for cancer treatment, or hormones to treat post-menopause symptoms, it cannot exclude these procedures to treat gender dysphoria.
  • Refusing to enroll you in a plan, canceling your coverage, or charging higher rates because of your transgender status: An insurance company can’t treat you differently, refuse to enroll you, or limit coverage for any services because you are transgender.
  • Denying coverage for care typically associated with one gender: It’s illegal for an insurance company to deny you coverage for treatments typically associated with one gender based on the gender listed in the insurance company’s records or the sex you were assigned at birth. For example, if a transgender woman’s health care provider decides she needs a prostate exam, an insurance company can’t deny it because she is listed as female in her records. If her provider recommends gynecological care, coverage can’t be denied simply because she was identified as male at birth.

What should I do to get coverage for transition-related care?

Check out A4TE’s Trans Health Project for more information on getting the care that you need covered by your health plan.

If you do not yet have health insurance, you can visit our friends at Out2Enroll to understand your options.

Does private health insurance cover transition-related care?

It is illegal for most private insurance plans to deny coverage for medically necessary transition-related care. Your private insurance plan should provide coverage for the care that you need. However, many transgender people continue to face discriminatory denials. 

To understand how to get access to the care that you need under your private insurance plan, and what to do in case your care is initially denied, check out A4TE’s Trans Health Project.

Does Medicaid cover transition-related care?

It is illegal for Medicaid plans to deny coverage for medically necessary transition-related care. Your state Medicaid plan should provide coverage for the care that you need. However, many transgender people continue to face discriminatory denials. Some states have specific guidelines on the steps you have to take to access care. You can check if your state has specific guidelines here.

To understand how to get access to the care that you need under your Medicaid plan, check out A4TE’s Trans Health Project.

My plan has an exclusion for transition-related care. What should I do?

There are many reasons why your plan might still have an exclusion for transition-related care in general or for a specific procedure. This does not necessarily mean that your plan will not cover your care. Sometimes plan documents are out of date or the exclusion may not be enforceable..

If you get insurance through work or school, you can advocate with your employer to have the exclusion removed.

A4TE’s Trans Health Project has more information on how to access care and remove exclusions.

Does Medicare cover transition-related care?

It is illegal for Medicare to deny coverage for medically necessary transition-related care.

For many years, Medicare did not cover transition-related surgery due to a decades-old policy that categorized such treatment as "experimental." That exclusion was eliminated in May 2014, and there is now no national exclusion for transition-related health care under Medicare. Some local Medicare contractors have specific policies spelling out their coverage for transition-related care, as do some private Medicare Advantage plans.

To learn more about your rights on Medicare, contact the Medicare Rights Center.


Does the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provide transition-related care?

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides coverage for some transition-related care for eligible veterans. However, VHA still has an arbitrary and medically baseless exclusion for coverage of transition-related surgery.  In 2021, The US Department of Veterans Affairs announced that they would begin the process to expand health care services available to transgender veterans to include gender confirmation surgery, but that change has not yet been put into practice. Currently, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides care for thousands of transgender veterans, including some transition-related medical care. There is ongoing litigation by transgender veterans over this unconscionable lack of coverage. 

For more information, check out the FAQs by the Veterans Health Administration. 

Does TRICARE cover transition-related care?

TRICARE provides coverage for some transition-related care for family members and dependents of military personnel. However, TRICARE still has an exclusion for coverage of transition-related surgery. for everyone other than active duty service members.

If you are an active military member and want to understand your coverage while serving, check out the resources from our friends at SPART*A and OutServe.

What are my rights in receiving health care?

Which health providers are prohibited from discriminating against me?

Under the Affordable Care Act, it is illegal for health care providers that receive federal financial assistance to discriminate against you because you are transgender. The following are examples of places and programs that may be covered by the law:

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Hospitals
  • Community health clinics
  • Drug rehabilitation programs
  • Rape crisis centers
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Health clinics in schools and universities
  • Medical residency programs
  • Home health providers
  • Veterans health centers
  • Health services in prison or detention facilities
  • Health insurance companies


What types of discrimination by health care providers are prohibited by law?

Examples of discriminatory treatment prohibited by federal law include (but are not limited to):

  • Refusing to admit or treat you because you are transgender
  • Forcing you to have intrusive and unnecessary examinations because you are transgender
  • Refusing to provide you services that they provide to other patients because you are transgender
  • Refuse to treat you according to your gender identity, including by providing you access to restrooms consistent with your gender
  • Refusing to respect your gender identity in making room assignments
  • Harassing you or refusing to respond to harassment by staff or other patients
  • Refusing to provide counseling, medical advocacy or referrals, or other support services because you are transgender
  • Isolating you or depriving you of human contact in a residential treatment facility, or limiting your participation in social or recreational activities offered to others
  • Requiring you to participate in “conversion therapy” for the purpose of changing your gender identity
  • Attempting to harass, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with your ability to exercise your health care rights

What are my rights related to privacy of my health information?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires most health care providers and health insurance plans to protect your privacy when it comes to certain information about your health or medical history. Information about your transgender status, including your diagnosis, medical history, sex assigned at birth, or anatomy, may be protected health information. Such information should not be disclosed to anyone—including family, friends, and other patients—without your consent. This information should also not be disclosed to medical staff unless there is a medically relevant reason to do so. If this information is shared for purposes of gossip or harassment, it is a violation of HIPAA.

What Can I Do If I Face Discrimination?

Seek preauthorization for care and appeal insurance denials

To access transition-related care, you can apply for preauthorization before undergoing any procedures to understand whether your plan will cover it. If you receive a denial of transition-related care, you may be able to fight the denial through the insurance appeal process or you may need to retain an attorney to challenge a discriminatory policy.

for more information on how to get the care that you need covered.

Contact an attorney or legal organization

If you face discrimination from a health care provider or insurance company, it may be against the law. You can talk to a lawyer or a legal organization to see what your options are. A lawyer might also be able to help you resolve your problem without a lawsuit, for example by contacting your health care provider to make sure they understand their legal obligations or filing a complaint with a professional board.

A4TE’s Trans Health Project helps people address transgender exclusions in health coverage, but we are not able to provide advice or representation to most people who contact us.  If you need an attorney, you can try your local legal aid or legal services organization, or national or regional organizations such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, the ACLU, and others listed on our  Additional Resources page and in the Trans Legal Services Network.

File discrimination complaints with state and federal agencies

People can report any anti-transgender discrimination they experience while seeking health care services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services accepts complaints of discrimination or denial of care based on your sex gender , disability, age, race, or national origin. If your health care privacy was violated, you can also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights.

Here are some other places you can file health care complaints:

Other state and local agencies: If you face discrimination, you may be able to file a complaint with your state’s human rights agency. You can find a list of state human rights agencies here:

What Laws Protect Me?

Federal protections

  • The Health Care Rights Law, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits sex discrimination, including anti-transgender discrimination, by most health providers and insurance companies, as well as discrimination based on race, national origin, age, and disability. Under the ACA, it is illegal for most insurance companies to have exclusions of transition-related care, and it is illegal for most health providers to discriminate against transgender people, like by turning someone away or refusing to treat them according to their gender identity.  
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ privacy when it comes to certain health information, including information related to a person’s transgender status and transition. It also gives patients the right to access, inspect, and copy their protected health information held by hospitals, clinics, and health plans.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in health care and other settings based on a disability, which may include a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
  • Medicare and Medicaid regulations protect the right of hospital patients to choose their own visitors and medical decision-makers regardless of their legal relationship to the patient. This means that hospitals cannot discriminate against LGBT people or their families in visitation and in recognizing a patient’s designated decision-maker.
  • The Joint Commission hospital accreditation standards require hospitals to have internal policies prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • The Nursing Home Reform Act establishes a set of nursing home residents’ rights that include the right to privacy, including in visits from friends or loved ones; the right to be free from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect; the right to choose your physician; the right to dignity and self-determination; and the right to file grievances without retaliation.

Many State and local nondiscrimination laws prohibit health care discrimination against transgender people under certain circumstances.

A large number of states also have explicit policies that prohibit anti-transgender discrimination in private insurance and Medicaid, like exclusions of transition-related care.

Remember, just because your state isn’t listed here doesn’t mean you’re not protected. Check out A4TE’s Trans Health Project  for more information about getting coverage for the care that you need. 

How Can I Help?

  • Head to our State Action Center to see the latest on health care fights in legislatures across the United States, and how you can help fight for transgender people’s right to get the health care they need

Share your story. If you are facing discriminatory treatment, consider sharing your story with A4TE so we can use it in advocacy efforts to advance public understanding and policy change for transgender people. If you successfully resolved a health care situation, we want to hear about that as well. Please be aware that this is a story collection effort for advocacy which goes to our communications team, and does not contact the Trans Health Project directly. 

Additional Resources

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