Drop in Medicaid coverage of gender-affirming medical care leaves transgender Floridians struggling

By: - August 23, 2022 12:18 pm

Florida Board of Medicine, Aug. 5, 2022. Credit: Brooke Baitinger.

Coverage ended Sunday for thousands of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, who now must figure out how to afford gender-affirming care or stop treatment cold turkey.

“Approximately 9,000 transgender Floridians woke up today to find out they no longer have life-saving Medicaid coverage,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando wrote on Twitter, invoking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempt to criminalize healthcare for transgender kids through the Florida Department of Health.

“DeSantis bypassed the legislature and weaponized state agencies against his own constituents for simply minding their own business,” he added. “This is not freedom.”

The drop in coverage of gender-affirming medical care is the result of an about-face move from the Florida Board of Medicine last week.

Board members banned coverage of medical care such as puberty blocking medications and hormone replacement therapy for transgender and nonbinary people — including adults — after previously saying they only sought to set standards of care for children and teenagers.

Only two weeks ago, the board decided to “enter rulemaking” — a process they said could take them weeks to hold workshops, gather data and speak with experts to build a standard of care.

They only wanted to learn more from the experts, they claimed. Board member Patrick Hunter said he would vote to go into rulemaking “just to learn more and hear from everybody.”

Hunter freely and regularly shares “detransition” disinformation on his Twitter account from anti-trans fringe groups such as Genspect, which claims many more people detransition than is factual.

They feigned concern for children seeking hormone blocking medication or hormone replacement therapy, and ultimately ignored pleas from scores of transgender and nonbinary patients and supportive parents and family members who detailed how helpful the treatments have been for kids with gender dysphoria.

Florida is one of at least ten other states, including Texas, Arizona, and Missouri, that prohibits residents from using Medicaid to pay for medications and surgeries prescribed to those diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the Washington Post reported.

Multiple legal groups, including Lambda Legal and the Florida Health Justice Project, are pursuing potential challenges to the rule, including lawsuits. Lambda Legal has successfully challenged similar rules in West Virginia and Alaska.

Transgender activists, advocates, researchers, and authors took to social media to detail what the move means for the future of gender-affirming care in Florida and the rest of the country.

Many pointed out that the board members seemed to be using children as a stepping stone to outlaw trans people’s existence altogether.

Amanda Jetté Knox, a bestselling nonbinary author, explained the tactic on Twitter.

“They come for trans kids first because leveraging fear about “harming” kids with “experimental treatments” is an easy sell to the uninformed,” they wrote. “But what they’re really doing is laying the groundwork to remove supports for all trans people. Kids are a stepping stone.”

They used Florida’s move to ban trans people from using Medicaid to afford gender-affirming care as an example.

“In the U.S., anti-trans rhetoric & the laws that follow have been most successful when the starting point is children,” Knox wrote.

“But it doesn’t end there,” they added. “Within a few days, Florida moved from voting to ban affirming care for trans youth to removing access through Medicaid for trans adults.”

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis continued pushing a false narrative on Twitter that gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers, is a euphemism for disfiguring kids. He failed to acknowledge the wealth of testimony from transgender kids themselves and from supportive parents and family members that early access to gender-affirming care saves lives by decreasing kid’s chances of being bullied in school, and ultimately reduces their likelihood of suicide attempts or completions.

Most major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association, have endorsed gender-affirming care as standard treatment for years. The Endocrine Society and the Pediatric Endocrine Society oppose legislative efforts to block transgender and gender diverse individuals from accessing gender-affirming medical and surgical care, the societies said in a joint policy perspective published in 2020.

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Brooke Baitinger
Brooke Baitinger

Brooke is a Florida native and has covered the state's LGBTQ+ news and culture for three years. She studied journalism at the University of Florida. When she's not writing stories, she enjoys hanging out with her cats, riding horses or spending time outdoors.

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