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JUNE 27 PICKET
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2015 GENDER JUSTICE AWARDS – A TRANS* PRIDE / GJL FUNDRAISER

The 2015 Gender Justice Awards dinner will highlight and showcase the incredible activism of Trans and Allied Activists who have made incredible strides for Trans, Gender Queer, and Gender Non-Conforming people in the Pacific Northwest.

This year's Gender Justice Awards will be hosted by Ian Harvie comedian and actor who appeared in the Golden Globe Award winning series Transparent.

Tickets Available at: BROWN PAPER TICKETS
Doors Open: 6pm
Dinner & Program Starts: 7pm
Event Ends: 10pm

We will join together to celebrate Trans activist, performers, community members and allies working in a number of key areas:

Emerging Activist Award
HIV/AIDS Justice Award
Solidarity Award
Organization, Group, or Business Award
Health Justice Award
Public Official or Political Power Award
Artist, Writer, or Performer Award
Longevity & Self Care Award

Tickets costs are going to:
Price of a catered Meal
Space Rental
Decorations
Emcee & performers
Equipment rental

Our Views on ethical fundraising:
We ask attendees to come prepared to make an additional donation if possible, tickets are priced to be as accessible as possible for our community and are intended to cover just the cost of the event (catered food is expensive!). We recognize not everyone who attends can give, at our ticket prices we expect to only "break even". Additional Gifts will go directly to Trans* Pride Seattle 2015 and Gender Justice League's Education & Advocacy efforts.

Gender Justice League is committed to economic accessibility: 10% of seats (20) will be reserved for sliding scale attendance. Please email danni@genderjusticeleague.org if you are in need of a sliding scale ticket. Attendees can also sponsor one of these tickets.

Accessibility: GJL strives to make our spaces radically accessible. Melrose Market is wheelchair accessible.

ASL Interpretation: ASL interpretation will be provided.

Alcohol and Substance Use Policy: Gender Justice League strives to make our events accessible to all portions of our community, including young people and those of us recovering from substance abuse. As such, Gender Justice League intentionally does not serve alcohol at our events.  We believe that it is possible to embraces a sober environment without sacrificing the joy and celebration of this community event.  Those people who use substances such as medical marijuana to treat pain or other conditions are welcome to do so discretely and in locations that are in accordance with state law.

 

Smoke-Free, Low-Scent Policy: In order to make the Gender Justice Awards a healthy, accessible place for everyone, we are enacting a smoke-free, low-scent policy.

Smoke and many scents aggravate a large number of health conditions including asthma, migraines, multiple chemical sensitivities and compromised immune systems. A lot of people are forced to choose between missing out on community events or getting headaches, dizziness, sore throats, nausea, rashes and a whole bunch of other negative reactions.

Were changing that and we need your help. Please don’t smoke in or around the entranceway to this event. If you do smoke, please take a few minutes to air out afterward, and wash your hands when you get back. There will be unscented soap in the bathrooms. Also, on the day of the event please refrain from using cologne, perfume, nail polish, and other products with strong artificial fragrances or chemical odors (please do wear any topical medicine you need in order to be healthy regardless of scent). If you are not sure if a scented product will pose a problem for some people, the safe bet is to refrain from using it for this one day.

We recognize that for a lot of people, going smoke-free and low-scent is a big change. We appreciate this. And the effort on your part is a way of showing love for our community. As trans, gender queer, and gender non-conforming people we need a safe, loving space to call our own. Thank you for helping us make that place a reality.

Fragrance-free and low-scent alternatives to heavily scented personal grooming products are available, and alternatives can be made from basic ingredients for far less than even discount, mainstream products. For more information on fragrance-free and low-scent alternatives see here and here.

If you have any accessibility needs please contact Jessica Littenberg at jessical@genderjusticeleague.org


LGBTQ Hate Violence Forum A Huge Success

Gender Justice League was honored to join with Councilmember Kshama Sawant's office and 10 other LGBTQ and allied community organizations to hold a community forum on hate violence in Capitol Hill.  Since the start of 2015 - 8 trans women, 7 of them trans women of color have been murdered in the United States.  2014 saw a rash of hate violence on capitol hill including an attempted arson at Neighbors night club and the murder of two young black men in Leschi - though the crime started on Capitol Hill.  Numerous GJL members have expressed an ongoing fear of violence and lack of safety on the hill and a desire to create community based solutions.  We heard loud and clear from the community on Tuesday night - Hate Violence is a significant problem on the hill.  Community members called for concrete actions to addressing income inequality, the housing affordability crisis, LGBTQ youth homelessness, and to restore funding for mental health and human services.  Many community members shared their horrifying experiences of violence on the hill, and we were exceptionally thankful for their courage to educate.  Calls for more housing for homeless LGBTQ youth resonated loudly in the room.

For our next steps - Gender Justice League will work with our community partners to bring together a Task Force to more closely coordinate our response to victims, clarify what community based solutions we believe will bring about progress in reducing hate violence on the hill, and make recommendations to public officials about how the city, county, and state can better respond to hate violence.   What is clear is that Tuesday night's forum was the first step in an ongoing conversation about ways to address safety, livability, and hate violence in Capitol Hill.  We look forward to working with community members, elected officials, and organizations to making tangible progress in reducing hate violence on the hill.

-Gender Justice League
You can read coverage of the event in The Stranger, Capitol Hill Blog, and watch news coverage on KIRO 7, King 5, and Q13.


GJL Opposes new Anti-Prostitution Bills

Gender Justice League has joined with our colleagues at Sex Workers Outreach Project - Seattle in expressing serious concerns about the impact of two new proposed anti-prostitution bills in Washington state that would dramatically increase penalties for "soliciting a prostitute".  Senate Bills 5277 and 5048 would change sentences for conviction from up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine to 1-year in jail and a $5,000 fine along with civil forfeiture for any property used "in the commission of soliciting a prostitute" - this could include a home, computer, vehicle, cell phone, or other property.  These bills will deeply impact transgender people, 16% of whom have engaged in sex work at some point by creating unsafe conditions in Washington.

More than 10 Gender Justice League and Sex Workers Outreach Project members attended a hearing  on Thursday January 22nd  on the Bill - but were not allowed by the committee to provide testimony.  Gender Justice League has provided written testimony to the committee and the bills sponsor Sen. Kohl-Welles (D) - Ballard/Magnolia/Queen Anne.

Gender Justice League's position is consistent with that of the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN AIDS,  UN WOmen, The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Open Society Foundation, The UN Special Repporteur on the Right to Health, the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington which is that these bills would create unsafe working conditions for sex workers, do little to impact the problem of human trafficking for prostitution, and increase the spread of HIV.   You can download our full testimony. Or read it bellow!

We are seeking organizational sponsors who agree with our position to sign onto our letter to legislators. Please contact Danni Askini, Executive Director through our contact us page.


Trans Health Insurance Forum a huge success

On Saturday January 17th, Gender Justice League hosted a Trans Health Insurance Forum
with the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare. The forum featured panelists and presentation
on coverage for transition related care in private insurance policies, for state employees, those
with medicare, and soon-to-be coverage in AppleCare - Washington's medicaid program. The
forum was heavily attended with over 100 people signed in!  The panel took questions from
the audience and shared resources. Make sure to check out some of our written materials
bellow:

Medicare FAQ from National Center for Trans Equality
Information from the Washington Insurance Commissioner's Office
How to file a complaint about a denial of a claim by your insurance

We will be providing more information on Apple Care's new rules for coverage once they are
finalized this spring. Stay tuned!  You can also sign up for our Newsletter to get updates as
they emerge.


Frequently Asked Questions On Washington OIC Letter on Transgender Healthcare

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON WASHINGTON INSURANCE COMMISSIONER LETTER ON TRANSGENDER HEALTHCARE

OVERVIEW
The Washington Insurance Commissioner’s office sent a letter to private insurers in Washington State on June 25th of 2014 announcing that in order to comply with provisions of the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Affordable Care Act that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, health insurance plans sold in Washington can no longer deny health care to transgender policy holders which is provided to non-transgender policy holders. Removing these outdated exclusions brings Washington up-to-date with the latest information from medical experts and will provide countless Washingtonians with access to medically necessary health care. You can read more about this announcement on the Insurance Commissioner’s Website:  www.insurance.wa.gov

WHAT IS THE INSURANCE COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE AND WHAT AUTHORITY DOES IT HAVE?
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner oversees health insurance in the state of Washington. Insurance companies must comply with the Insurance Code and Insurance Commissioner rules that implement the Insurance Code in order to sell insurance in the state. The letter is intended to serve as notice to insurers and others of the agency’s expectations about how insurers and producers must act in transacting insurance in order to comply with Washington’s non-discrimination law, in particular the Anderson-Murray non-discrimination law of 2006. The Insurance Commissioner also has the power to ensure that plans offered in the state-based healthcare exchange comply with the Affordable Care Act.

WHAT KINDS OF EXCLUSIONS DOES THE LETTER IMPACT?
We interpret the letter to mean that:

  • Health insurers cannot deny coverage of treatments for transgender policy holders if the same treatments are covered for other policy holders.
  • Health insurers may not have riders that categorically exclude for all transgender patients gender-confirming surgeries/procedures that they would cover for other diagnoses.
  • The statewide mandate for coverage of mental health services must apply to transgender patients of all ages, therefore mental health care related to gender transition should be covered by insurers.
  • The designation of male or female may not be relevant to treatment (i.e., a person cannot be denied an ovarian cancer screening on the basis that they identify as male).
  • Transgender people will have to make the same case for ‘medical necessity’ of treatment with their medical provider to their insurance company as would anyone else seeking medical treatment.
  • This letter does not guarantee any specific coverage; it does however require insurers to provide the same services to transgender people as to non-transgender people and that they treat transgender people fairly.
  • If you believe you have been discriminated against – the Insurance Commissioner’s office will assist you in filing an appeal and will investigate if the law has been broken.
  • All plans in the 2015 health market exchange will be evaluated if they contain any discriminatory exclusions to make sure they cover medically necessary services equally for non-transgender and transgender enrollees
    • For example, if an insurer covers breast reduction surgery to lessen back pain, the insurer could not deny breast reduction surgery for gender transition if the provider deemed the treatment medically necessary. If hormone therapy is covered for other policyholders, it cannot be denied for gender transition if determined to be medically necessary. On the other hand, an insurer could exclude all coverage of breast implants or penile implants. In short, Washington law requires equality in treatment.

WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK AN INSURER HAS UNFAIRLY DENIED MY CLAIM?

  1. If you are denied coverage for a treatment, you must file an appeal through the insurance provider. Your appeal may be denied by your insurance company and should include any additional steps of appealing. You must complete all levels of internal appeal with the insurer.
  2. At the same time as you are going through the appeals process, file a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office. You may receive help with your complaint from an insurance consumer advocate by calling 1-800-562-6900 or by going to this website: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/complaints-and-fraud/file-a-complaint/insurance-company/   Filing with the Insurance Commissioner’s office is important as it helps other Transgender community members – if an insurance company is a “bad apple” the insurance commissioner may receive a lot of complaints and can take additional actions with that insurer for violating state law.
  3. The Insurance Commissioner can help follow your case with your insurance company and provide additional information to you as well as examine if the company has violated state law and tell the company to fix the problem.
  4. You can also contact QLaw’s GLBT Legal Clinic or Gender Justice League for additional assistance in navigating this problem.

BUT WHAT IF THE INSURER COVERS THE SAME PROCEDURES FOR OTHERS? ISN’T THIS FLAT OUT DISCRIMINATION? 

If the insurer is denying a claim for a treatment for a transgender-related condition but allows the same treatment to others for non-transgender-related condition simply by saying “this is not covered,” then the Insurance Commissioner may use existing non-discrimination statutes to require the insurer to provide coverage for the treatment of a transgender-related condition.  The availability of this option can only be made on a case-by-case basis, as many things influence the outcome, such as terms of the policy itself, reasons the carrier denied the claim or refused to approve the treatment, coverage provided to others seeking the same treatment for other reasons, etc.  When an insurer denies a claim based on “medical necessity,” the insurance company is essentially disagreeing with a doctor about the medical necessity of a procedure. The Insurance Commissioner does not have the authority to review individual medical necessity decisions. However, because of the expectations set forth in the letter, most insurers will likely have to make a determination that a treatment is not medically necessary in order to deny coverage.  In this case you now have access to an external review process administrated by the Insurance Commissioner. A Consumer Advocate from the Insurance Commissioner’s office can assist you through this process free of charge, but the Insurance Commissioner’s office cannot make the determination of medical necessity.  The Insurance Commissioner’s Office strongly urges an insured person to participate in this process if a claim is denied on the basis of medical necessity.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROVE MEDICAL NECESSITY?

Medical necessity is determined on a case by case basis through guidelines established by your insurer.  However, we believe that if you follow the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care version 7 you should be able to make an argument that your care is medically necessary.  While there is no guarantee that your insurance will absolutely cover your care, following the WPATH standards of care is helpful in establishing the medical necessity of your care. Discuss with your doctor or therapist what course of medical care is best in your case.  You can download the WPATH standards of care here: http://www.genderjusticeleague.org/socv7.pdf

WHY IS THIS DECISION NEEDED?
Insurance companies routinely refuse to provide coverage for basic medical care to transgender people based on their transgender status or specifically exclude transgender-related services. Nearly all insurance plans categorically excluded coverage for transgender-related medical treatment, even when that treatment (such as mental health care or hormone replacement therapy) is covered for non-transgender people. This kind of categorical exclusion is no longer permitted.

IS THIS NECESSARY MEDICAL CARE?
Our nation’s most reputable medical bodies have identified transgender health care as being medically necessary. In 2008, the American Medical Association passed a resolution supporting public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder and opposing the “exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when prescribed by a physician.” That same year, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution stating that the organization “opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies; in 2012 the American Psychiatric Association affirmed that the organization “Urges the repeal of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender and gender variant individuals.” and “Opposes all public and private discrimination against transgender and gender variant individuals in such areas as health care, employment, housing, public accommodation, education, and licensing.”  In June 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services removed similar exclusions from the federally administered Medicare program, citing the medical necessity of this care.

WILL THIS RAISE INSURANCE RATES?
Past experience offers helpful information here. In 2012, the City of Seattle removed exclusions, and Seattle has seen no significant cost impact to their health plan. Similarly, the City of Portland, Oregon has estimated the premium impact to be .08%. The City and County of San Francisco removed exclusions from their employee benefits plan in 2001 and have not seen any discernible increase in health care costs. Six States including Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have all required insurers to remove these exclusions, with little impact to underlying insurance rates.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID?
Recently Medicare announced that it was removing categorical exclusions in health care. This decision will have no impact on Medicare which is managed by the Federal Government. Medicaid is a state administered public insurance program and this letter will not apply to Medicaid because the program is regulated by a different state agency. The Coalition is working with the Health Care Authority to broaden Medicaid eligibility to include transition related health care. What is clear is that the letter will apply to all private insurance companies that operate in Washington.  The Coalition for Inclusive Health Care and transgender community leaders will continue working together to increase access to medically necessary care for all Washingtonians.

WHAT ABOUT FOR STATE EMPLOYEES?
The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare has been working with the State Public Employees Benefits Board to bring inclusive coverage for state employees. We are optimistic the PEBB will remove transgender health exclusions, but no final decision has been made yet. If you have questions about State Employees or have experienced a denial letter – please reach out to the coalition.

WHAT ABOUT FOR SELF-INSURED PLANS?
Some large employers self-insure, meaning they pay insurance claims themselves. These self-insured plans are often administered by large insurance companies – so it may be difficult to know if your company has a self-insured plan -- but these plans are primarily at very large employers (more than 500 employees). Self-Insured Plans are governed by a Federal law called ERISA, which means that the Insurance Commissioner’s letter does not apply to those plans.  Many Self-Insured employers are working on removing these discriminatory exclusions.  Please contact the Coalition if you need help working with your employer to get coverage under a self-insured plan.

WHO ELSE IS PROVIDING THIS COVERAGE AND WHY?
Currently, 25% of Fortune 100 Companies and many Washington businesses offer inclusive health care, including healthcare for transgender employees. These businesses believe that providing all employees with the medically-necessary care they need to be healthy and productive is not just good for employees and their families, they know it is good for business.

Washington businesses that offer transgender-related coverage to their employees include: Washington Education Association, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Progressive Insurance, Starbucks, Alcatel-Lucent, American Express, Ameriprise Financial, AT&T, Bank of America, Chrysler Motors, IBM, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, KPMG, Kraft Foods, McGraw- Hill, and State Farm.

You can download a PDF of this FAQ.
You can read the OIC Letter on their website.


Victory! Insurance Commissioner: Companies Can’t Discriminate Against Transgender Washingtonians

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 25th
Contact: Rachael DeCruz, rachaeldecruz@pridefoundation.org, 206-323-3318 x 19 (cell: 508-451-9455)

Insurance Commissioner: Companies Can’t Discriminate Against Transgender Washingtonians

Insurance Commissioner Clarifies Insurance Companies Must Provide Coverage for Transgender People

 Olympia, WA—Earlier today, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler made an announcement clarifying that health insurance policies sold in Washington State cannot discriminate against transgender Washingtonians. The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare applauds the Commissioner and his office for taking this important step forward.

Private health insurance policies routinely include clauses that specifically preclude transgender people from accessing medical and mental health care that is covered for other policy holders. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner, which oversees Washington’s private insurance companies, clarified that under both Washington’s 2006 non-discrimination law and the Federal Affordable Care Act, these categorical exclusions are illegal, and that insurance providers must cover the same services for transgender people as non-transgender people.

As in other states that have paved the way, the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare hopes that insurance providers will utilize this guidance letter to update their policies—bringing parity to healthcare coverage. The coalition looks forward to working with insurers on implementing this guidance.

“Today’s announcement by the Insurance Commissioner affirms what we already know—that providing parity in healthcare coverage is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the law.” said Marsha Botzer, founder and Board Co-Chair of Ingersoll Gender Center.

“Removing these outdated exclusions brings Washington up-to-date with the latest information from medical experts and will provide transgender Washingtonians with access to life-saving and medically necessary health care,” said Danielle Askini, member of the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare and Advocacy Director of the Gender Justice League.

Removing transgender exclusions in healthcare is also cost-effective. A 2013 study of Fortune 500 employers who offer transgender-inclusive health coverage to their workers found that providing such coverage had a negligible impact on costs. The City of Seattle, the Washington Education Association, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, and a growing number of large employers that self-insure already provide transgender-inclusive health coverage to their employees.

“As a smaller employer without the ability to self-insure, Pride Foundation found that we could not purchase an insurance plan in Washington that would provide these much-needed benefits to our employees,” said Seth Kirby, Board President of Pride Foundation. “We were compelled to create a supplemental policy to cover those services so that we could treat all employees fairly and remain a competitive employer.”

National and medical health experts—including the American Medical Association and more than eight major medical associations—have recognized that gender transition-related health care is medically necessary. Yet many transgender Washingtonians are routinely denied coverage for basic, medically-necessary care simply because they are transgender.

Nearly all insurance plans in Washington categorically exclude coverage for transition-related medical treatment, even when that same treatment (such as mental health care or hormone replacement therapy) is covered for non-transgender people. This discrimination can lead to serious—even life-threatening—conditions. Forty-five percent of transgender Washingtonians have attempted suicide at some point in their life according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. With access to gender transition related care medical research has shown that suicide attempt rate drops down to roughly 3 to 5%—only slightly higher than the general public.

“I know from personal experience how much these exclusions can hurt transgender people and their families,” said Gwen Yeh, a transgender woman. “Having been denied hormones and doctors’ visits sent a clear signal that I was not equal. This letter sends a strong message that all Washingtonians should be treated fairly by their insurance companies.”

“This care is life saving and medically necessary,” said Dr. Roberta Dalley, a physician at the University of Washington. “After 30 years of practice, refusing transgender people medical care because of who they are goes against everything I believe in as a physician.”

The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare is a broad is a broad group of organizations and individuals that support inclusive healthcare for transgender people in Washington.

 # # #

 Support for Transgender Inclusive Healthcare

“I know from personal experience how much these exclusions can hurt transgender people and their families. Having been denied hormones and doctors’ visits sent a clear signal that I was not equal. This letter sends a strong message that all Washingtonians should be treated fairly by their insurance companies.”

-- Gwen Yeh, a transgender woman

“This care is life saving and medically necessary. After 30 years of practice, refusing transgender people medical care because of who they are goes against everything I believe in as a physician.”

-- Dr. Roberta Dalley, MD, GLMA Board Member, University of Washington Physician

“In 2006 the Washington State legislature banned discrimination in insurance based on a person’s gender identity. It’s time to make that promise a lived reality for all transgender people in Washington.”

--  Laurie Jinkins, Washington State Representative, 27th District

“The costs associated with removing transgender exclusions in healthcare coverage are negligible—making this a win-win proposition. We’re able to cover the full range of healthcare services for all Washingtonians, with no discernable cost.”

--  Louise Chernin, Greater Seattle Business Association

“It was important for us at the City of Seattle to model the values we share as a community—respect, dignity, and fairness. In 2012we matched our actions to our values by providing health insurance that covers transgender individuals.”

-- Sally J. Clark, Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency, Seattle City Council

“As a young transgender woman I know first-hand how important it is to have coverage for all of my healthcare needs. Transgender inclusive healthcare coverage means that I’m able to get the medically necessary care I need and don’t need to have the added stress of having coverage denied for routine blood work, or mental healthcare.”

-- Erin Smith, staff member at Associated Ministries in Tacoma


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