HARRISBURG – A bill to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, through 2019 has drawn scorn from civil rights advocates after a committee of the Pennsylvania Senate amended it last week to also prohibit insurance coverage of healthcare related to gender transition for transgender people in the program.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is among the advocates charging that CHIP reauthorization is “held hostage” to the anti-transgender language in the bill.

“Transgender youth, including those who participate in CHIP, deserve access to healthcare,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “In fact, the CHIP statute demands that the program covers all medically necessary care. The treatments that can’t be covered under this bill, such as counseling and hormone therapy, are medically necessary and sometimes life-saving for transgender youth.”

The original version of House Bill 1388 passed the state House unanimously in June. CHIP is scheduled to expire on December 31, and the bill, as introduced, extended the program through the end of 2019.

On Wednesday, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed the amendment to prohibit coverage of transition-related care, including counseling, hormone therapy, and surgical procedures. All Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the amendment while all Democrats voted against it.

This afternoon, the bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

“The only amendment that has been added to the CHIP renewal bill is one that will harm transgender youth,” said Naiymah Sanchez, transgender advocacy coordinator at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Trans kids shouldn’t be used as a political ploy.”