Colorado will be first in the US to require comprehensive health coverage for gender-affirming services |

Colorado will be first in the US to require comprehensive health coverage for gender-affirming services

The state is also expanding coverage for acupuncture and other treatments that are alternatives to opioids

John Ingold
The Colorado Sun

DENVER — Colorado will become the first state in the country to require certain health care plans to cover comprehensive health services for transgender people, the state and federal governments announced Tuesday, Oct. 12.

The state will also add two more required benefits for those plans: an annual mental health wellness exam and prescription coverage for treatments that are alternatives to opioid painkillers, including acupuncture.

The changes will take effect starting in 2023. They apply only to coverage offered to small employers and coverage available to people who buy health insurance on their own, without help from an employer. Combined, those two segments of the market cover about 500,000 Coloradans.

“We hope this marks a historic beginning and that other states look to Colorado as a model,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who, as the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is one of the Biden administration’s top health officials.

The benefits were added to the state’s “benchmark plan” following an extensive review process at the Colorado Division of Insurance that included meetings with insurance companies and other stakeholders. The benchmark plan is a kind of minimum blueprint that insurance companies offering plans in the individual and small group markets must follow. The changes mean that the new benefits will be considered essential, similar to previously designated essential health benefits like cancer treatment or maternity care.

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