Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing to ban Medicaid coverage of gender-affirming medical care for trans adults, as his administration announced earlier this week. The move makes Florida the first U.S. state to target hormones and transition coverage for adults as lawmakers across the country target trans youth healthcare.
According to a June 2 press release, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) will explore whether to deny Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming treatments for all trans Floridians—both youth and adults. The two-page public statement from the AHCA claims that treatments such as hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender-reassignment surgery are“experimental and investigational” and says they have the “potential for harmful long term affects [sic].”
Because Medicaid isn’t required to cover treatments that are deemed to be experimental, the state agency could restrict essential medical care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in Florida by declaring it as such.
Although Florida has not yet banned coverage for gender-affirming care, AHCA Secretary Simone Marstiller said the agency will “now initiate the rule-making process regarding the Medicaid program’s coverage treatments for gender dysphoria,” meaning that an official policy could be forthcoming. In the statement, Marstiller claimed that studies indicating the effectiveness of treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT), gender-affirming surgery and puberty blockers are “weak to very weak.”
The potential decision stands to impact approximately 9,000 trans Floridians who currently rely on Medicaid for their health coverage, according to a statement from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
“In a year when Florida officials have already unleashed repeated, mean-spirited attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, this latest move by the DeSantis administration to deny best practice, age-appropriate, medically necessary healthcare to transgender people is simply one more purely partisan attack on LGBTQ Floridians—timed to coincide with the start of Pride Month,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel, in a press release.
Included in Florida’s press release is the state’s newly published Generally Accepted Professional Medical Standards (GAPMS), which LGBTQ2S+ advocacy groups said attempt to discredit gender-affirming healthcare in order to push back against directives issued by the Biden administration. The White House has declared medical treatments for gender dysphoria to be an “essential health benefit” under Medicaid.
This isn’t the first time that Florida has questioned the efficacy of gender-affirming medical care. In April, the Florida Department of Health released a series of memos claiming studies showing that HRT for trans minors lowers the risk of suicidal ideation and increases their overall well-being are based upon “low-quality evidence, small sample sizes and medium to high risk of bias.” The agency also claimed that 80 percent of trans youth will eventually identify with their birth-assigned gender if they are not permitted to socially or medically transition.
At the time, HRC responded with a corrected version, exposing inaccurate conclusions from the research cited by Florida state government leaders, including obsolete terminology and misleading data. Its point-by-point rebuttal also cited numerous studies indicating that gender-affirming medical treatment saves lives, both for trans youth and adults.
LGBTQ2S+ advocacy groups said Florida’s continued attacks on trans healthcare are “anti-scientific” and “support a hateful anti-trans agenda.”
“For over a decade, the medical literature review indicated that gender-affirming care services are significantly associated with improvements in mental health outcome measures such as reducing suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety,” D. Ojeda, a senior national organizer for the National Center for Trans Equality (NCTE), told Xtra in an email. “This news is devastating, and we will do everything we can to fight and protect trans health.”
This is only the most recent in a series of attacks on Florida’s LGBTQ2S+ community. In March, DeSantis signed the state’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay Bill” into law—which limits classroom discussions of LGBTQ2S+ issues—and later pushed to revoke Disney’s special status as a self-governing district in response to the company’s opposition to the legislation.
Opponents of these moves said they keep fighting to ensure all Floridians are safe and protected and that they have access to the medical treatment they need.
“Governor DeSantis’s administration is once again using Pride month to target the LGBTQ community,” said Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer in a statement. “This time it is a crusade to deny Floridians their freedom to access healthcare. “Governor DeSantis’s agencies have misrepresented findings and distorted data to advance a political agenda, rather than relying on good science. This is yet another state agency being used to launch an overt attack on transgender Floridians.”
“The transgender community, like all people, shouldn’t have their access to basic, medically necessary and often life-saving care stripped away by extremist politicians hoping to stoke right-wing fervor,” he added. “Florida should put public health over politics.”