Federal Insurance Policies to Cover Gender Reassignment Surgery

Monday, 14 Jul 2014 12:16 PM

By John Blosser

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Just two weeks after the Obama administration’s decision to lift the 1981 ban on Medicare paying for sex reassignment surgery, the federal Office of Personnel Management notified employees that it will allow federally subsidized health insurance policies to provide coverage for the pricey procedures.

While sex reassignment surgery can cost between $25,000 and $75,000, and experts still question the wisdom of surgically treating what many consider to be a mental condition, the move for federal, state, and private insurance companies to fund gender reassignment surgery is rapidly gathering steam, Politico reported.

Politico reports that five states — Oregon, California, Vermont, Colorado, and Connecticut — as well as the District of Columbia have directed private insurers to pay for the sex-swap surgery, while San Francisco and Rochester, New York, cover the costs of the procedure for municipal employees.

The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to lift the 1981 ban on Medicare funding for sex-change surgery, then considered experimental, came after an appeal by Army veteran Denee Mallon, 74, who told The Washington Post, "I am relieved to know that my doctor and I can now address my medical needs, just as other patients and doctors do."

However, insurance and medical experts question whether surgery is the way to approach the situation. Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatrist and Fox News commentator, told LifeSiteNews, "We don’t know as psychiatrists precisely where any fixed and false belief comes from. And if it turns out that people who think they are locked in the wrong gender body could have been approached with something other than a scalpel, then we’ll be responsible as a field for not having been more diligent in seeing those answers as to where this comes from."

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told the Boston Globe, "In what other case does the medical profession go along with a mental disorder of the extent of radical surgery on the body instead of treating the underlying medical issue? Instead of giving them the treatment they are demanding, we should give them the treatment they need."

And Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, cautioned that no one knows what the costs will be, given that it is estimated that 20,000 Massachusetts residents may be eligible for the procedure.

"While this, like other mandated benefits, may be well-intentioned, ultimately, the costs will be borne by individuals and employers, particularly small businessmen, exacerbating the challenges that they already face with the rising cost of healthcare," she told the  Globe.

The Williams Institute at the University of California estimates that 0.3 percent of U.S. adults are transgender and, therefore, could be eligible for funding for sex reassignment surgery.

LGBT advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union intend to keep pushing for full coverage, including Medicaid. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said that federal employers could be "in violation of the law" if they fail to cover the procedure, according to LifeSiteNews. "We think it’s illegal sex discrimination if they exclude care for trans people that they allow other people to have."

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