Medicare will now cover sex change operations – gender reassignment surgery – after the Obama administration ended the 33-year ban on such procedures on Friday. The move will most likely pressure more insurance providers to cover such medical procedures, according to a New York Times report on Friday. The ruling came from the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Service’s board. The issue arose following a lawsuit filed in 2013 by Denee Mallon, a 74-year-old transgender woman and army veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In 1981, there was a Medicare ban put on sex change operations as they were considered experimental at the time. In current times, however, it is reported that most medical groups including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association consider the surgeries to be a safe option for persons who suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a condition characterized by intense discomfort – or incongruence – with one’s own birth sex.
Medicare is coverage for persons who are 65 years old or older, but it is reported that private insurance plans take their cues from Medicare quite often on what ought to be a treatment that is covered. Only about 0.3 percent of the United States population is transgender. It is believed that the ruling will open up more options from persons who are transgender. Reportedly, such a medical procedure can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to perform.
Opponents of the ban being lifted on sex change coverage argue that taxpayer funding should not be used for such procedures, according to the Washington Post. A senior legislative assistant with the Family Research Council, Leanna Baumer, believes that the ruling ignores the complexity of issues surrounding gender identity. She asserts that real compassion for those struggling with a gender identity disorder is to offer mental health treatments that help men and women become comfortable with their actual biological sex and not to advocate for costly and controversial surgeries subsidized by the taxpayers.
Others argue against the lift on the ban for moral reasons. The national political director for the National Organization for Marriage, Frank Schubert, was quick to comment on the Obama administration’s action. He said that he objects to the decision as the ruling does not encourage children to respect who they are and how they were born.