Board rules Medicare can pay for sex reassignment surgery

[JURIST] The Departmental Appeals Board of Health and Human Services (DAB) [official website] on Friday revoked a National Coverage Determination (NCD) [December HHS Summary] barring Medicare payment for gender reassignment surgeries. The revoked NCD was issued in 1981 [HHS index] and refused to pay [advocacy backgrounder] for surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria due to a lack of knowledge about the safety of the surgery. Citing modern studies on the effects of surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria, the DAB held that the NCD, while reasonable in 1981, was no longer enforceable in light of today's knowledge. While the new NCD does not create a right to Medicare payments for such treatmenst, it does open the door [text] for individual analysis based on medical evidence of each applicant.

The rights and identity of transgendered individuals is a topic of debate in many states and countries, with supporters claiming that gender is not necessarily tied to the sex organs one is born with, while others assert [JURIST op-ed] that "sex is an objective, biological fact." In February the Thirteenth Texas Court of Appeals [official website] vacated [JURIST report] a lower court's holding that the transgender widow of a firefighter was a man at the time of her marriage, thus invalidating the union. In January the Supreme Court of Maine ruled that a school district had violated the rights of a transgender student when it tried to prevent [JURIST report] her from using the girl's bathroom. In November the group Privacy for all Students announced [JURIST report] it had obtained enough signatures to put an initiative on the November 2014 ballot to repeal the California law allowing school students to self-identify with a particular gender and to use the corresponding school facilities. In 2012 Alaska began [JURIST report] to allow transgendered individuals to begin changing their gender markers on their driver's license to more accurately reflect their gender. Just months earlier the Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] certiorari to decide the issue of whether transgendered prison inmates have a right to hormone therapy.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.