NY Health Department Proposes Medicaid Coverage for Gender Dysphoria Treatment in Youths

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Pensive child looking through a windowThe issue of healthcare in the U.S. has been a point of contention for some time now, and in 2014, there were 35.7 million people without any healthcare insurance at all. Even those who were covered by a health insurance policy could not afford essential services because their specific treatments were not deemed necessary under the limited scope of the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier this month, however, the New York State Health Department proposed a rule that would allow transgender youths to receive Medicaid coverage for gender dysphoria treatment.

As of last year, state health insurance has covered hormone treatments for transgender adults, but still barred minors from accessing the hormones that suppress puberty and mimic the biological chemistry of the opposite gender.

The State Health Department initially expressed concerns about safety, but after discussing the details of the treatment with a number of practitioners who treat young people, they agreed that hormone therapies were medically justifiable for children and teens who feel that their sex is not representative of their true gender.

“Puberty is traumatic, or can be, for all people, but it’s incredibly traumatic for transgender people,” said staff lawyer with the Legal Aid Society Belkys Garcia. She noted that these puberty suppressants are extremely effective in allowing young people to “figure themselves out” during this confusing stage.

New York State has enacted prohibitions on Medicaid payments for gender dysphoria treatments since the administration of Governor George E. Pataki who left office in 2006. Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, has helped push the acceptance of transgender people forward in the state of New York in recent years. In 2014, he mandated that the Department of Financial Services guarantee insurance coverage for gender dysphoria, and last year, he used his executive power to establish anti-discrimination measures for transgender individuals.

The proposed change in health insurance coverage will not take effect immediately. Rather, there is a 45-day comment period before the state can formally adopt the rule.