Today an independent board within the Department of Health and Human Services overturned Medicare’s coverage exclusion for transition-related medical procedures.
Trans exclusion from health coverage is no accident: since 1989 Medicare has explicitly barred coverage of transition-related procedures. This followed the advocacy of trans exclusionary radical feminists like Janice Raymond, whose work led directly to coverage exclusions in federal and state programs.
It’s hard to overstate how huge a win this is for trans folks. As Veronica wrote here when news broke that HHS was close to lifting the ban:
Gender-affirming surgeries for trans folks are basic health care, and access to this health care for the folks who need it is a human right — as much as access to any kind of health care is. This health care can be nothing short of life-saving.
Medicare provides insurance for the elderly and people with disabilities. As the National Center for Transgender Equality explains in a fact sheet (pdf), lifting the Medicare ban does not directly impact private insurance, veteran’s care, or Medicaid, which serves low-income people. However, as Veronica also pointed out, Medicare policy has a lot of influence in the world of health insurance. The federal government has made a clear statement here that transition-related procedures are necessary healthcare. We can use the momentum of this win to push for clarification of policy from state Medicaid programs, and to fight the de facto and explicit exclusions that still exist.
We still have more work to do to ensure trans people have the basic human right of healthcare access. But this is a massive win, a defeat of some of feminism’s ugliest track record with transphobia and transmisogyny, and one of the most significant victories in the fight for trans rights.
Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing and cried like a baby over this win.