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Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013

News for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Physicians

Led by the AMA, times are changing for LGBT physicians

Led by the AMA, times are changing for LGBT physicians

Practicing as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) physician has improved significantly, but there's still room for improvement, according to a recent article by Marisa Torrieri in Physician Practice.

As recently as the 2000s, LGBT physicians remember a lack of acceptance by major medical organizations as well as a fear of discrimination while undergoing their residency training.

"It's been a lot easier lately, definitely," nurse practitioner Teri Bunker said. "I have a Human Rights Campaign sticker on my front door to this clinic. I have Advocate magazines in my waiting room, and I advertise on my website as having a special interest in gay, lesbian and transgender issues. I'm known as a provider who takes care of (these) patients. So there has been more comfort to come out in that regard."

Today health care organizations are setting a new tone. For example, Kaiser Permanente has key sponsorship roles in Capital Pride, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that serves the LGBT community through educational events, entertainment and community outreach, and in Capital Transpride, a subset of Capital Pride.

Torrieri writes that the AMA has taken huge steps to show its support for LGBT physicians, even creating the GLBT Advisory Committee and welcoming the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association into its House of Delegates in June.

"The AMA's GLBT Advisory Committee is very active and has played a very critical role in laying the foundation for a lot of policy the AMA has with sexual identity and non-discrimination," says 64-year-old Desi Bailey, MD, a Seattle-based anesthesiologist who is president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

But there is still work to be done to improve LGBT health, says Baily, including bolstering medical school curricula and the training that students receive.

Learn more about the AMA GLBT Advisory Committee.

CalPERS approves trans-inclusive health coverage

The largest U.S. public health benefits fund recently voted to include transgender transition-related care in all of its health plans as of Jan. 1.

CalPERS provides retirement and health benefits to more than 1.6 million public employees, retirees and their families in the state of California. The board's historic vote means that the 2014 HMO and PPO plans managed by CalPERS will include coverage of sex reassignment surgery and related services for gender identity disorder.

The CalPERS board decision also follows regulatory decisions by California's Department of Insurance and Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) that transgender-specific exclusions in health plans violate California law, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In March 2013, the DMHC directed health plans to ensure that "individuals are not denied access to medically necessary care because of gender, gender identity or gender expression" and to "remove benefit and coverage exclusions and limitations related to gender transition services." While the DMHC directive does not mandate coverage, plans are prohibited from implementing blanket exclusions of services related to sex reassignment. When services are shown to be medically necessary and clinically appropriate for an individual, California-regulated health plans may be obligated to provide coverage.

The AMA supports public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder as recommended by a patient's physician. Learn more about AMA policies on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender physician and patient issues.