Jun 14, 2014

MediCare Now Allowed to Accept Claims for Sex Change Surgeries

        On Friday, May 30th, 2014, the Obama administration struck down the ban on Medicare-funded gender confirmation, or more commonly, sex reassignment surgeries. According to BuzzFeed, gender confirmation surgeries were banned in 1981 from being covered by Medicare because of a fear of “serious complications” resulting from the “experimental surgeries”. Most medical professional organizations now consider sex reassignment surgeries to be safe and accepted procedures. The decision to lift the ban is a monumental one, because people’s dreams of finally being closer to having the body that they feel they were always supposed to have can now be reached a bit easier. Even though the ban was lifted, it doesn’t mean that Medicare must approve every claim they receive. Experts are saying that Medicare now accepting gender confirmation surgeries will prompt private insurance companies to begin funding the surgeries themselves.

                The only question I had was “Why was this not bigger news?” It turns out that the news of the lifting of the ban was released as a statement of bringing Medicare up to speed with the rest of the medical community. This may be the biggest movement but it isn’t the first instance of people fighting for better healthcare for trans* people. A friend of mine informed me of a petition on his university’s insurance company to include doctors and medications for students that identify as trans*. The petition was granted and the rules of their insurance guidelines were changed. Striking down the ban on gender confirmation surgeries is the second big advance for LGBT medicine since last November when President Obama legalized HIV positive donor to HIV positive recipient transplants. To some of you this may seem familiar if you watch Grey’s Anatomy. In the most recent season of Grey’s Anatomy, an HIV positive gay man gave his HIV positive friend one of his kidneys.    

                All of these procedures being legalized are now safer and becoming more common in the medical community. We are quite a bit more medically advanced and know more than we did in 1981. If these surgeries become more available and more affordable, even through private insurance, the trans* community will be able to live their lives the way they want. Surgeries will be so much safer done here in the United States as opposed to traveling out of the country to have a confirmation surgery done, risking infection, then traveling back to the states weeks later due to healing time in the hospital.
                Because we are collectively called the LGBT community, we as the L, G, and B sections should fight alongside our trans* brothers and sisters and help them with their fight for equality. In my region, trans* rights aren’t extremely prevalent, nor do trans* people make it into the media very often, even though they are slowly becoming more accepted. My overall standing on the lifting of the ban is: if it helps the trans* community be happy and allows them to express themselves as the rest of us do, why not let them? Striving to find who you are, to feel like yourself, is a normal thing, and if you feel like you’re in the wrong body and wish to fix it, then nobody should stop you. For people of the trans* community, the price of happiness just became a bit cheaper.

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