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Peoria County's health care plan doesn't cover gender-affirming care. LGBTQ+ rights groups want to see that changed

Kristin McHugh / WCBU

Peoria County's employee health care plan excludes gender-affirming care from coverage. Area LGBTQ+ advocacy groups say that policy isn't just a bad one, but it's having a negative impact on real people.

"There is an exclusionary clause in their plan. (It) very explicitly excludes gender affirming care for all staff and family members that are on their plan," said Nicole Morrow, vice president of communications for Peoria Proud.

"Sex transformation and hormones related to such treatment" is listed as one of 50 coverage exclusions in the county's qualified high deductible health plan.

"A good concern was raised to us by an employee who, they or their family members may be seeking that care, and it's not covered through the plan," Morrow said. "So, that was where it first came to our attention. And we're just looking for some health equity within the plan."

Peoria County's employee health care plan is self-funded. The county has subsidized part of the employee share of health care premiums for the past two years.

The county's adopted fiscal year 2023 budget passed last fall notes "comprehensive changes" to the county health plan's benefit levels and premium structures will be needed sometime in the next several years to keep the Employee Health Fund solvent.

County staff studied other options over the summer, but concluded the current self-funding structure was the most cost-effective way to provide health insurance to employees.

County Board chairman James Dillon said county staff is looking into the concerns raised by members of Peoria Proud during the public comment portion of last week's county board meeting.

Morrow said LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and their partners aren't trying to demonize the county, but they want to ensure there's health equity in the Peoria area.

"We have a feeling that there's probably more folks that are impacted than just this one person who's happened to reach out," Morrow said. "This impacts people's family members and impacts people themselves that are employed there, their ability to work, their ability to have the care that they deserve, that they are paying for out of their checks. So our hope is that that health care plan will actually be changed."

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.