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Medicare Now Covers Gender Reassignment Surgery

The Department of Health and Human Services ruled to drop a 33-year ban on Medicare coverage for gender reassignment surgery.
Posted at 3:06 PM, May 31, 2014

A major victory for transgender Americans — the ban on Medicare coverage for sex reassignment surgery that was first put in place 33 years ago has been lifted. 

The surgeries were not originally covered because they were considered experimental but are now considered safe by several medical associations. This decision could make way for insurers to also begin offering coverage. (Via KXTV)

"It's medically necessary care. It enhances quality of life. It makes you feel on an equal playing field as somebody else." (Via KNTV)

The decision comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. Medicare only covers people 65 years of age and older so transgender patients requesting reassignment surgery — will have their request reviewed just like any other medical treatment. 

The decision comes on the heels of an administrative challenge from last year when 74-year-old Army veteran Denee Mallon's doctor recommend she have gender reassignment surgery. (ViaTime

Mallon, who was born biologically male, told The New York Times“This is a big, big decision; I’ve wanted the operation since I was probably 11 years old and knew about it ... I expect a certain amount of criticism because of my age — generally you’re considered over the hill at 70, why have an operation — but it’s a medical decision, and I want congruence between what I am as a human and my body." 

But there are still those who condemn the decision, including a senior legislative assistant with the Family Research Council who spoke to The Washington Post. Claiming "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 — not to advocate for costly and controversial surgeries subsidized by taxpayers."

Officials originally attempted to overturn the ban in 2013 but backlash halted the act. (Via The Washington Blade

For now, the decision will only cover gender reassignment surgery, not other treatments, like for hormones.