HHS: Medicare can no longer ban transgender healthcare coverage

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services repealed a moratorium, issued in 1981, that prevented Medicare from even considering covering transgender healthcare. The HHS Departmental Appeals Board decided the 33-year-old ban's claims that many procedures deemed medically necessary for transgender people today could lead to "serious complications" because they are "experimental" is outdated and inaccurate.

Organizations calling for this change, including the ACLU, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, released a statement clarifying the repeal, saying:

The removal of the exclusion of coverage for surgical care for Medicare recipients means that individuals will not automatically have claims of coverage for gender transition-related surgeries denied. They should either get coverage or, at a minimum, receive an individualized review of the medical need for the specific procedure they seek, just like anyone seeking coverage for any other medical treatment.

They added:

It is consistent with the consensus of the medical and scientific community that access to gender transition-related care is medically necessary for many people with gender dysphoria.

This repeal is likely to influence private and public health insurance policies around the country, many of which continue to exclude coverage for medically necessary transgender care. In New York, a similar ban denies coverage for transgender healthcare under the state-wide Medicaid program, even though many of the same treatments needed by transgender people are provided to non-trans people under the insurance program, such as hormone treatments and reconstructive surgeries.

"This landmark HHS ruling sends the message that transgender healthcare isn't special care," said GLAAD spokesperson Tiq Milan. "It's the same healthcare that non-trans people have access to everyday when they need it, but it is specifically denied to one population, just because of who we are."

Fine out more about transgender healthcare coverage at www.glaad.org/healthcare