In what is being hailed as a major victory in the ongoing struggle for full civil rights for the transgender community, subsequent to a ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services board, the Obama administration has ended a 33-year ban on Medicare coverage for gender reassignment surgery and related medical treatments.
Under pressure by conservative forces, Medicare banned coverage of gender reassignment surgery in 1981, designating these treatments as “experimental.” a lot has changed over the past three decades, and by now most medical groups, notably the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association now back gender reassignment surgery as the best treatment for those suffering from gender dysphoria.
It took a lawsuit, brought on behalf of a 74-year-old transgender woman, and army veteran, Denee Mallon, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, but the end result is that Medicare policy is now in line with current medical guidelines, rather than allied with outdated and increasingly irrelevant, transphobic impulses that have previously held sway over government policies toward our community.
While this new Medicare policy does not apply to Medicaid, the health program that covers low-income individuals, it is still significant insofar as the private insurance industry takes its cues from Medicare coverage. Once procedures are accepted by Medicare, private insurance companies find themselves with no supportable basis for denying coverage, though it will likely take some time for this change in policy to filter down to every level of the health care coverage sector.
For those of us who are transgender or are dating someone who is transgender, these are very exciting times indeed!
For more information, read: “Transgender people cannot be denied sex-reassignment Medicare coverage”