New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the dedication ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York, May 15, 2014. The Democratic governor recently issued a letter to insurance companies mandating coverage of gender reassignment surgery. UPI/John Munson/Pool | License Photo
NEW YORK, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The governor of New York penned a letter this week mandating that insurance companies can no longer deny sex reassignment surgery to patients.
The rule, based on state laws requiring the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders, would open the door for transgender patients to obtain transitional operations as well as other treatments. Insurance companies have largely seen such surgeries as cosmetic in nature.
"An issuer of a policy that includes coverage for mental health conditions may not exclude coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria," Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote, referring to the medical term for the condition, also known as Gender Identity Disorder.
According to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, this makes New York the ninth state to require such coverage, joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The rule also applies in Washington, D.C..
Lee Albertorio, a 30-year-old transgender New Yorker, told the Huffington Post that he sought a mastectomy but was denied by his insurance provider, which characterized the operation as "cosmetic."
"This is part of who I am," Albertorio said. "This is going to make me comfortable, so I decided to go ahead and pay out of pocket using student loans and credit cards because I just needed that to get done at the time."
Upon hearing of Cuomo's order, however, Albertorio told the New York Times that it would "change everything."
Democratic State Senator Brad Hoylman brought the issue up in June, noting how other states already required insurance companies to allow the coverage, and how several transgender New Yorkers were forced to pay out-of-pocket expenses for reassignment operations.
Albertorio spent $6,500 in loans and credit card payments to obtain the mastectomy -- just one step in a transition estimated to cost $50,000.
"Nobody should be in that position in order to embrace such a fundamental aspect of their personhood," Hoylman said.