Today, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project staged a direct action at New York’s Population Health Summit, an educational public health event held by Health Commissioner Nirav. R. Shah. We calling on Commissioner Shah to create safe and affordable healthcare for trans and gender non conforming people. In order for this to happen, we demand the immediate repeal of a discriminatory regulation in New York’s Medicaid program that denies trans and gender non-conforming people from accessing healthcare we need.
For years now SRLP’s community has politely asked Commissioner Shah to repeal Medicaid’s discriminatory policy and practice that denies trans and gender non-conforming people safe and affordable healthcare. And although the American Medical Association has come out in favor of insurers covering all healthcare needs for trans and gender non conforming people, and despite no employer, insurance company or jurisdiction finding healthcare for trans people costs more, Shah remains steadfast in discriminating against our community members.
In response to our earlier efforts to create affordable healthcare for trans and gender non conforming New Yorkers, Shah refused and said “No consideration is being given to any change in current state policy and any proposal to have gender reassignment surgery funded by Medicaid would be rejected”
So today SRLP and our allies displayed a banner, passed out fliers and asked pointed questions during the summit presentation in order to educate Health Summit attendees about Medicaid discrimination and the harm it causes trans and gender non conforming New Yorkers.
SRLP ally Ted Kerr, programs manager at Visual AIDS, posed this question to Commissioner Shah:
My name is Ted Kerr and I work in the field of HIV/AIDS. An issue with a long history with population health. I love the triple aims of prevention, population health and partnership. In my own work, I partner with Sylvia Rivera Law project, an org that does justice work for transgender and gender non conforming people.
I loved how you started your talk today with remarks about John. John is transgender. Which means there are barriers to care for him. Walking the streets can be unsafe, he can be scared to go to the dentist and the doctors because right now there is a Medicaid policy which discriminates against transgender and gender non conforming people. Will you work with SRLP to remove this policy? Are you committed to repealing the discriminatory health care policy?
Thank you commissioner Shah for working with SRLP on this issue.”
The action was part of an ongoing campaign, created with GLAAD, which highlights the need for safe and accessible healthcare for transgender people. The campaign includes a series of PSA videos featuring transgender advocates and allies that have been viewed nearly 100,000 times. You can watch the full series of videos here. In conjunction with the campaign we launched a Change.org petition calling New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Shah to repeal Medicaid’s discriminatory regulation. The petition has over 2,000 signatures!
Currently, trans and gender non conforming New Yorkers are prevented from accessing the healthcare we need, whether it’s preventative care or hormone therapy, through Medicaid because of the regulation. With transgender people living in poverty at 4 times the national average, a staggering 19% of transgender people report lacking any form of health insurance, including Medicaid. This policy not only targets trans people unfairly, but legally reinforces discrimination by insurance carriers and health care providers.