The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may remove a blanket ban on coverage for transgender healthcare through Medicare, reports BuzzFeed. Following an administrative challenge to the ban filed by the ACLU, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2013, an independent HHS review panel is expected to hand down a ruling sometime in the coming weeks.
The challenge centered on the case of Denise Mallon, a 73-year-old transgender Army vet whose doctors recommended sex-reassignment surgery as a treatment for gender-identity disorder.
For a year, the challenge has wound its way through the HHS appeals structure. On Feb. 25, the HHS Departmental Appeals Board issued an interim ruling, spurring a 90-day window until the board makes its final ruling on the challenge, or announces an extension of the review period is needed. The interim ruling stated the board had “determined that the new evidence submitted by the aggrieved party ‘has the potential to significantly affect’ the Board’s evaluation” of the ban — or in other words, that the evidence presented suggested the blanket ban would be overturned.
Since 1981, Medicare’s ban on sex-reassignment surgery has stood in the way of people like Mallon, who are seeing treatment for a disorder recognized by major medical advocates like the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association.