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Bill Would Expand Health Care to Immigrant, Transgender Communities

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019   

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A coalition is urging Washington state to expand health care.

The Reproductive Health Access for All Act would help two communities in particular that face barriers to care: immigrants and the transgender or gender non-conforming communities.

Women who are undocumented can't access family-planning services because of federal restrictions, and Morgan Steele Dykeman, legislative affairs manager for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said nearly 30 percent of transgender Washingtonians have been denied either transition-related or reproductive care because of their gender identity.

"That might be a situation where you have a trans man, for example, who needs a hysterectomy or treatment for birth control," she said, "but because the health insurance company has that person listed as a man, they get a blanket denial on any services that would traditionally be identified with women."

Starting in 2021, the measure also would require health-insurance plans, including student plans, to cover condoms, screenings following sexual assaults, medications for needs following an assault, prenatal vitamins and breast pumps.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 5602, has a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee today.

Steele Dykeman said providing greater access to health care would be a money saver for the state in the long run.

"Not only is there a public-health component in terms of ensuring that all communities in Washington have healthy families," she said, "but also making sure that we're not delaying the cost burden of taking care of folks who didn't have the right access when they needed it."

Backing the bill is the Health Equity and Reproductive Rights Organizations Coalition. Groups signed onto the coalition include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Gender Justice League and Northwest Health Law Advocates.

The text of SB 5602 is online at lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov.


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