NY: Governor Cuomo Moves To Ban Coverage of Conversion Therapy

gov cuomo new york

NY Governor Cuomo

Multi-agency regulations announced yesterday (6 February) ban public and private health care insurers from covering Conversion Therapy in New York State.

Governor Cuomo: “We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”

New York Governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, yesterday announced a series of comprehensive regulations to prevent the practice of so-called lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender “conversion therapy,” which has been deemed harmful to patients by a wide variety of leading medical and mental health professionals.

Multi-agency regulations announced yesterday ban public and private health care insurers from covering the practice in New York State, and also prohibit various mental health facilities across the state from conducting the practice on minors.

Governor Cuomo stated:

“Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice that is counter to everything this state stands for. New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBT community for decades – and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example. We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”

The New York State Department of Financial Services is issuing regulations barring New York insurers from providing coverage for conversion therapy given to an individual under the age of 18. Additionally, the New York State Department of Health is prohibiting coverage of conversion therapy under New York’s Medicaid program, and the New York State Office of Mental Health is issuing regulations prohibiting facilities under its jurisdiction from providing conversion therapy treatment to minors.

Warren Seigel, MD, FAAP, Chair of the New York State Academy of Pediatrics, said:

“Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as all major professional associations of health and mental health practitioners and child and adolescent development specialists in the United State have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years. We are very pleased by the actions announced today to help protect vulnerable gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth from discredited, sham and dangerous interventions. We applaud Governor Cuomo for his bold leadership on this issue.”

Conversion therapy – which refers to therapy intended to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity – has been repudiated by many medical and professional organizations, including: the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Counseling Association; the American Psychiatric Association; the American Psychological Association; the American School Counselor Association; the National Association of School Psychologists; and the National Association of Social Workers.

“Governor Cuomo and the State of New York are commended for taking a principled and scientific stand,” said American Psychiatric Association President Renee Binder, M.D. “APA has long recognized that so-called reparative therapy is not a scientifically validated treatment and can, in fact, undermine self-esteem and be hazardous.”

Ronald Bunce, Executive Director, LMSW (Licensed Master Social Work) said: “The National Association of Social Workers – New York State has long condemned the use of “conversion” and/or “reparative” therapies.  People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assume that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men are often pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. NASW’s National Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues believes that such treatment potentially leads to severe emotional damage, is contrary to data and should be banned. “

Matthew A. Weissman, MD, MBA, FAAP Chief Medical Officer/VP of Medical Affairs, Community Healthcare Network, commented: “As a practicing internist and pediatrician, I welcome the governor’s initiative.  All 90 health care providers at Community Healthcare Network, including 14 federally qualified health centers, aim to make all of our patients’ sexual lives healthy and gratifying.  All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, welcoming atmosphere in which to receive their healthcare without any attempt to force change in their sexual identities. “

Peter Meacher MD, Chief Medical Officer, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Family Physician, stated: “So called conversion therapy not only doesn’t work but it is extremely dangerous for LGBT people, with adverse outcomes from extreme mental distress and depression up to and including suicide.  I have seen these adverse outcomes firsthand.  The Governor’s ban of this practice is a tremendous step forward in working toward health equity and justice for LGBT people.”

Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker commented: “By adhering to the recommendations of major medical organizations and banning these discredited and devastating therapies, New York is safeguarding the health and well-being of our state’s youngest and most vulnerable LGBT citizens. The children of New York deserve to be shielded from this detrimental treatment that is rooted in archaic beliefs.”

Commissioner of Mental Health Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan had this to say: “Homosexuality, bisexuality, or living as transgender, are not mental disorders and they should not be treated as such. With our actions here today, we aim to protect the inalienable right of self-determination for New York youth, reducing the trauma this so-called treatment can produce in the LGBT community, and helping to end the stigma that has been associated with being LGBT for far too long.”

As part of today’s initiative, DFS, DOH, and OMH will take the following actions:

  • DFS Insurance Coverage Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors. Under new regulations DFS will issue (available here), New York insurers will be barred from providing reimbursement for conversion therapy services provided to an insured under the age of 18 years. In addition, such insurers are advised to inform participating behavioral health providers that conversion therapy should not be provided to minors and that the insurers will not provide reimbursement for such services. Additionally, as part of the insurers’ provider credentialing or application and re-credentialing processes, insurers are advised to require behavioral health providers to certify that they will not provide conversion therapy to minors or seek reimbursement from the insurer for such services.
  • OMH Regulations Prohibiting Conversion Therapy for Minors. Under new regulations OMH will issue (available here), it will be unlawful for any mental health facility licensed, funded or operated by the New York State Office of Mental Health to provide conversion therapy to minors. Failure to comply with these new regulations could result in the revocation of license and/or funding for any entity found to have engaged in these practices.
  • DOH Medicaid Ban on Conversion Therapy Coverage. The New York State Department of Health prohibits (notice available here) Medicaid coverage for conversion therapy, as Medicaid only covers care, services, and supplies necessary to prevent, diagnose, correct, or cure recognized medical conditions. Since there is no medical necessity for conversion therapy and because it has been repudiated and discredited by virtually every relevant medical and professional organization, Medicaid cannot cover it.

Conversion therapy does not include counselling or therapy for an individual seeking to transition, or transitioning from one gender to another gender, that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual, or the facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, provided that the counseling or therapy does not seek to change sexual orientation or gender identity.

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