California's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has confirmed that a non-discrimination law guarantees all people the right to access coverage for medically necessary care regardless of gender identity or expression.

The DMHC on Tuesday reminded providers of their obligations under the Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act (IGNA).

“IGNA prohibits health plans from denying a person a contract (health coverage), or from limiting benefits, because of the individual's sex,” the DMHC wrote in a letter to providers. “IGNA defines 'sex' to include 'gender,' 'gender identity' and 'gender expression.' IGNA requires health plans to provide transgender individuals with the same contracts and coverage benefits that are available to non-transgender individuals.”

The DMHC's letter instructs health plans to remove exclusions and limitations related to gender transition.

“This is an important step in protecting the health of all Californians, including transgender individuals,” Democratic House Speaker John A. Perez said in a statement. “No Californian should be denied care and treatment because of their gender identity or expression. Implementation of California's Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act (IGNA) is a simple matter of fairness and equality in health care. I commend the Department of Managed Health Care for issuing its Director's Letter reminding health care service plans of their obligation to comply with IGNA.”

Masen Davis, executive director of Transgender Law Center, applauded the move.

“This one letter will save lives,” Davis said. “For years, transgender Californians have been denied coverage of basic care merely because of who we are. Discriminatory insurance exclusions put transgender people and our families at risk for health problems and financial hardship. Now we can finally get the care we need.”