HARRISBURG – The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee today (October 18) approved legislation that would extend the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) while prohibiting the use of funds for sex change procedures, according to Committee Chairman Senator Don White (R-Indiana).
“I don’t think in any way, shape, or form that covering gender, or sex reassignment surgery should be a part of the CHIP program which we set up years and years ago – one of the model CHIP programs in the country, and has been duplicated all across the country,” White stated at the committee hearing. “This amendment will remove any ambiguity regarding coverage of sex reassignment and transition services in Pennsylvania for CHIP policies.”
Senator Larry Farnese from Philadelphia-area’s 1st District, that is one of the Commonwealth’s most diverse LGBTQ communities, has been a passionate, outspoken supporter of equality and nondiscrimination legislation. He disagreed with White.
“Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in health care. Unfortunately, I think we all know that Pennsylvania remains in a class of states that continues to protect legalized discrimination against the LGBT community. These are basic rights that we have continually and systematically refused to afford them to certain classes of individuals. Here we are again, refusing to pay for medically necessary health care for otherwise covered transgendered individuals simply because of who they are.”
House Bill 1388, which was passed in the Committee by a bipartisan 14-1 vote and now goes to the full Senate for consideration, changes the expiration date of CHIP from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2019 and makes a clarifying exemption to the program’s expiration if federal funding for the program extends beyond December 31, 2019.
Prior to its vote, the Committee amended the bill with language introduced by Senator White that prohibits the use of CHIP money to pay for gender or sex reassignment surgery or gender or sex transition services, including, but not limited to: physician’s services, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, prescribed drugs, and/or counseling services.
White stated in a news release that he believes the majority of Pennsylvanians do not want government-subsidized health care to pay for sex change operations for children. He stated that the restriction for CHIP is in line with current state regulations that prohibit the use of Medicaid funding for sex change procedures.
CHIP is supported by both state and federal funding and provides insurance coverage to uninsured children and teens (up to age 19) whose families earn too much to qualify for Medical Assistance, but cannot afford private insurance. There are about 175,000 Pennsylvania children enrolled in CHIP.
The Committee also approved Senate Bill 877 and Senate Bill 878, two bills introduced by Senator White to amend the Independent Department Act and the Insurance Company Law to allow insurance companies to spend as much as $100 in marketing their products to a client or prospective client.
White stated in a news release that the two bills would let an insurance company offer a coffee or gas card to consumers who request a quote or submit an application.