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New York just made sex reassignment surgery much more accessible

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A letter from Governor Cuomo to insurers means that companies can no longer deny coverage

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Governor Andrew Cuomo just made sex reassignment surgery in the state of New York more accessible than ever before. According to The New York Times, his office sent a letter to insurers this week that lays out new ground rules for coverage. As far as the state is now concerned, if a doctor decides that sex reassignment surgery is medically necessary, health insurers no longer have the option of denying coverage.

"An issuer of a policy that includes coverage for mental health conditions may not exclude coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria," states the governor's letter.

insurers in New York "may not exclude coverage."

In the US, most private insurance policies don't provide coverage for people who wish to transition from one sex to another. But now that the rules in New York have changed, a total of nine US states mandate coverage. And thanks to an announcement by the Obama Administration in May, transgender people across the US who receive Medicare cannot be automatically denied for coverage of sex reassignment surgery.

Not everyone is cheering the change. Leslie Moran, spokesperson for the New York Health Plan Association, told the Times that although healthcare providers don't oppose the treatment, they worry that mandating coverage could lead to higher insurance rates across the board. This assertion was dismissed by the state's superintendent of financial services Benjamin Lawsky, however. Given the relative small number of people who require the surgery, he told the Times, he would be surprised if the new rules caused a noticeable rise in insurance premiums.

this "opens up an entire world of treatment for transgender people"

"This is an absolute sea change in the way that insurance for transgender people will cover their health care needs," Michael Silverman, executive director of the the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, told The New York Times. "This essentially opens up an entire world of treatment for transgender people that was closed to them previously."