Florida officially bans Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care

The controversial ban came into effect yesterday, 21 August, as a blow to the Trans community of the Southeastern state.

Close-up of a keyboard with the word 'Medicaid' on the red spacebar key. The frame of a pair of glasses sits in the foreground. In this story, we cover the Medicaid ban for Trans folks in Florida
Image: Via Instagram @dallaselderlaw

Medicaid can no longer provide gender-affirming care to Transgender patients throughout the state of Florida, following the archaic regulation brought in by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on 10 August. Gender-affirming surgeries, puberty blockers and hormone therapy are all among the treatments which Medicaid is prohibited from covering.

The ban has come about as a result of a transphobic memo sent by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a conservative official, to the Florida Medical Board in which he recommended against “certain pharmaceutical, non-pharmaceutical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria”. In the memo, he cites research from twelve sources, all of which have “presented skewed research findings and information from anti-Trans resources”, according to Gay Times.

LGBTQ+ organisations and allies were quick to condemn the move and the DeSantis administration for facilitating the “cruel effort to strip Transgender Floridians” of access to “often lifesaving medical care”.

“This rule represents a dangerous escalation in Governor DeSantis’s political zeal to persecute LGBTQ+ people in Florida, and particularly transgender youth,” said Lambda Legal, Southern Legal Counsel, Florida Health Justice Project and National Health Law Program in a joint statement on the Medicaid controversy. They also deemed the banned treatments “medically necessary” for Trans patients, saying that the decision puts “Transgender people in jeopardy”.

“This new rule is the latest example of the DeSantis Administration shamefully targeting Transgender Floridians. The Governor’s administration thinks it knows better than the residents and medical providers of Florida,” stated Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director.

“The purported rationale behind these latest moves to deny medical care to Transgender people has been thoroughly debunked time and time again since this effort first surfaced publicly in April.

“Rather than following the science, the data or the experts, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration instead chose to misinterpret studies, ignore evidence, and lend credence to prejudice – yet again putting the state between patients and doctors for no reason other than political grandstanding.”

“This rule will harm thousands of Floridians when it goes into effect, and it should be reevaluated immediately,” Warbelow concluded.

Arizona, Missouri and Texas are among several other states that have already adopted similar bans restricting healthcare for Trans patients (and disproportionately affecting those on lower incomes), with Human Rights Campaign highlighting that this ban on gender-affirming care via Medicaid will directly impact 9,000 Transgender citizens in Florida.

Meanwhile, in more positive news for Trans Americans, a judge in Utah has blocked a harmful ban which prohibited Transgender girls from participating in sports teams which align with their gender identity. This bill was originally vetoed by Utah Governor, Spencer Cox, but it was overturned by conservative lawmakers in the state’s House and Senate, with a significant majority voting in favour in both cases.

However, since the ban came into effect on 1 July, the state has been sued for discrimination by the families of Trans teens, with the court ruling that the plaintiffs had suffered “irreparable harm”. Thus, Judge Keith Kelly of Utah’s Third District Court officially blocked the ban on 19 August, issuing a preliminary injunction.

“The ban singles out Transgender girls and categorically bars them from competing on girls’ sports teams. At the same time, other girls are free to compete. This is plainly unfavourable treatment,” stated Judge Kelly.

While some elements of the ban are still in place (i.e. requiring Transgender girls to appeal to a committee to determine their eligibility to fairly join girls’ teams), it is a step forward for Utah, a win that Trans Americans sorely need right now.

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