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Council OKs insurance coverage for transgender workers

The Boston City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to guarantee transgender municipal employees and their dependents access to gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and mental health services.

An ordinance proposed by Councilors Michelle Wu and Ayanna Pressley will prohibit the city from contracting with any health insurer that denies coverage or “discriminates in the amount of premium, policy fees, or rates charged . . . because of gender identity or expression.”

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“This is a matter of equity and of fairness, but it’s also the best economic policy,” Wu said in the City Council chamber before the vote. “We want to be a workplace in the city of Boston that’s committed to hiring and keeping the best and brightest and taking away all the barriers to them supporting their families while they are working here.”

Mayor Martin J. Walsh will sign the measure, said his spokeswoman, Kate Norton. Walsh had recommended coverage of transgender health services to the city’s Public Employee Committee, which advises officials on health care and other human resources issues, Norton said.

City officials testified at a hearing this week that adding transgender insurance coverage would be at minimal cost to the city.

The ordinance calls for comprehensive health care for all municipal workers and their dependents regardless of gender identity or expression, Wu’s office said. Coverage will include gender dysphoria, a medical condition in which people do not identify with the gender in which they were born. Treatment may include mental health services, hormone therapy, and surgery.

City law does not currently require coverage for transgender employees, and care is not covered by the city’s present health care plans, according to Wu’s office.

Pressley said the ordinance was another step in making Boston fully inclusive.

“We can’t be a world-class city if anyone is made to feel like a second-class citizen,” Pressley said.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.
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