(Chicago, April 5, 2019) – Today, Governor Pritzker announced new rules providing Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgeries, granting access to life-saving medical care for trans and gender non-conforming people in Illinois. Prior to the rule change, Illinois was one of only 10 states that maintained an exclusion for transition-related surgery.

“We applaud Governor Pritzker and his administration for working swiftly to rectify the harm caused by the Medicaid prohibition on vital healthcare needed by many transgender people as part of their life-affirming transition,” said David Ernesto Munar, Howard Brown Health President and CEO.  “We look forward to working with the Pritzker Administration and members of the General Assembly to quickly promulgate and enforce parity for healthcare needed by transgender and gender-non-confirming people in the Medicaid program.”

Aisha N. Davis, Howard Brown Health’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy, responded to the announcement with reflections posted on Howard Brown’s blog.

“Today, Governor Pritzker helped bring the State of Illinois up to speed in LGBTQ healthcare policy by beginning the process of removing and revising rules related to Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgeries. Barriers to healthcare access for trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people can be a matter of life or death,” Aisha said.

“Howard Brown Health is very pleased to see that the new Governor and his administration – within the first three months of being sworn in – have taken an important step in making Illinois a state that guarantees access to healthcare for all of its residents. Under previous administrations, Illinois became one of only ten states that maintained an exclusion for transition-related surgeries in the state’s Medicaid program – making us unlikely bedfellows with Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.”

Prior to this change, TGNC people seeking coverage for gender-affirming surgeries under Medicaid faced uncertainty about whether they would be one of the lucky few whose procedures were covered, or left without recourse if denied.

As the largest LGBTQ health system in the Midwest, Howard Brown has long advocated for the removal of the gender-affirming surgery exclusion. In conversation with our providers and staff, our patients voiced concern, stress, and frustration around being arbitrarily denied access to lifesaving healthcare. Responding to this concern, Howard Brown created a surgical navigation team to provide as much assistance as possible to patients. With this new announcement from the Pritzker administration, and the removal of a significant barrier, we will be better equipped to help our patients.

This announcement is just one step towards ensuring equal access, resources, and healthcare options for all Illinoisans. Even with this change, we know there are other steps we can take to make Illinois a beacon of healthcare access for the LGBTQ community. Howard Brown is poised to provide as much assistance to both our patients and the administration to further this goal, and we look forward to more progress from the Pritzker administration.

For media inquiries, contact:

Casey Callich, Communications Manager, Howard Brown Health

caseyc@howardbrown.org, (cell) 312.439.8095