News (USA)

LGBTQ orgs sue to block Florida’s ban on transgender Medicaid coverage

transgender flag with a pharmacy symbol in front of it
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Four LGBTQ and health advocacy organizations are challenging Florida’s recently enacted rule banning healthcare providers from billing the state’s Medicaid program for gender-affirming care. Under the new rule, which took effect on August 21, puberty blockers, hormone therapies, and surgical procedures for the treatment of gender dysphoria are not covered for patients of any age.

Lambda Legal, Southern Legal Counsel, Florida Health Justice Project, and National Health Law Program filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of four transgender people challenging the rule recently adopted by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which oversees Florida’s Medicaid Program.

“Ignoring thousands of public comments and expert testimony, Florida’s AHCA has finalized a rule that will deny Medicaid coverage for all medically necessary gender-affirming care for both youth and adults,” the groups said in a statement released last month, adding that the rule would put “transgender people in jeopardy of losing access to critical gender-affirming health care services.”

Gender-affirming care for both adolescents and adults has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and many other professional groups as necessary and frequently lifesaving for transgender individuals. Treatment for children rarely, if ever, involves surgery, according to experts.

“This lawsuit is incredibly important and says to the state of Florida that this kind of discrimination is not tolerated under the constitution,” Lambda Legal senior attorney Carl Charles said in a video message posted to Twitter. “We’re also sending a message to transgender Floridians writ large that we are here for you and we support your right to access the same kinds of coverage under Medicaid as non-transgender beneficiaries.”

“It has been extremely stressful to have to worry about whether I will be able to get the medical care that I need and which is recommended by my doctors,” said 28-year-old August Dekker, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, in a press release.

“This new Medicaid rule denies me the ability to access treatment that I cannot otherwise afford,” Dekker continued. “Everyone deserves to exist in a way that feels safe, yet this ban will impact so many transgender Medicaid beneficiaries like me with very negative effects on our physical and mental health and our lives. It’s truly awful and unfair to feel like the state is targeting your existence.”

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel and Health Care Strategist at Lambda Legal said that Florida’s anti-trans rule “endangers the health, well-being, and very lives of Florida’s transgender Medicaid beneficiaries. It represents a cruel and deplorable action; one that is motivated by politics and bias rather than medicine and science. It also represents the complete abdication of AHCA’s own mission statement to ‘Better Health Care for All Floridians.’”

At least two other states that attempted similar Medicaid bans had them knocked down by federal judges. In 2019, a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin’s Medicaid program must cover gender-affirming care. In West Virginia earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Chambers overturned the state’s rule which had denied coverage for gender-affirming care since 2013.

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