How I Got My Trans Healthcare In Seattle And How You Can Too
I was working as a line cook in 2011, a year after Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into effect, something that literally saved my life. I hadn’t had any health insurance since I dropped out of college, and in the eight years since, working service industry jobs, I never counted on it. With my new Medicaid, or Apple Health I was able to have the dental and medical care I badly needed, for example: teeth cleanings, fillings, STI screenings, and surgery to remove a tumor.
With Apple Health, I was able to begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT), get counseling, and have surgeries to affirm my gender identity. To qualify for free-to-me insurance, I couldn’t make above a certain amount or else I’d be kicked up to the next income bracket where I’d have to pay. It wouldn’t cover as much as my free plan did, so I chose to work part-time. I had friends in the service industry who were put in the next income bracket, and ended up making less money than I did after they paid for insurance.
Choosing to work part-time in a service industry is, first of all, a privilege. I was supporting only myself on my income, lived in shared housing, didn’t have a car, and only had some small student loan debt. On the other hand, working part-time as a line cook meant I made just enough to get by, but it was worth it.
If you’re unemployed or working a low-wage job, you probably qualify for Apple Health. You can do this online or set up an appointment at Gay City for help with signing up. Depending on how much you make, you might qualify for free healthcare, including dental care. When it comes to gender-affirming surgeries, ask your primary care doctor to refer you to a surgeon who accepts Apple Health.
If you are insured, and even if you aren’t, you can go to any of the Neighborcare Health Clinics https://neighborcare.org/ in Seattle. They accept Medicaid and have sliding scale options if you’re uninsured, you’ll just have to bring documentation of how much you make and talk to an eligibility specialist.
The Country Doctor Community Health Centers (CDCHC) also have trans-competent doctors. They take Medicaid as well as uninsured patients on a sliding scale. CDCHC’s after-hours clinic from 6-9:30pm on weekdays and noon-9:30pm weekends accept walk-ins. If you’re coming as a walk-in, it’s a good idea to bring a book and some snacks because there might be a bit of a wait to be seen.
Seattle Counseling Service is the oldest LGBTQ-focused mental health group in the Seattle. They accept Apple Health and most other insurance plans. If your insurance requires a letter from a psychiatrist to cover a procedure, the psychiatrists at SCS can help.
Seattle’s Polyclinic has a reputable team that provides care to transgender and nonbinary folks, including Dr. Kevin Haftield, Dr. Emily Bradley and Dr. Jeffrey Kyllo. The Polyclinic’s acceptance of Medicaid is limited, but they take most other major insurance plans.
Another way to get insurance is to work for a company that provides it. Trader Joe’s in Seattle offers Anthem BlueCross to employees. Starbucks and Fred Meyer offer health insurance and other benefits for both full and part time employees.
Dolly Candy is a Healthcare Access Coordinator for Ingersoll Gender Center. She helps queer and trans folks get the care that they need based on their particular needs. Kaiser insurance is provided through her job, “My co-pay for prescriptions is seven to $25 depending on if it is ‘name brand’ or not,” she says.
If your insurance company ever denies you for a trans-related procedure, “that does NOT mean you cannot get it covered,” Candy emphasizes. “There is an appeal process that can prove very helpful. If you experience a denial seek out Ingersol or a LGBTQIA legal firm for help and guidance.”
Without Apple Health, I’d be pretty bad off, and probably in a ton of debt. Another great thing about the ACA is that it protects LGBTQIA people’s rights to medical treatment. No wonder Trump is working so hard to repeal it. In other words, use it now before it’s gone.