WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Office of Personnel Management has released new guidelines allowing federal agencies to offer coverage for “sex-change” surgeries and procedures to their employees and dependents.
The decision came just two weeks after the Obama administration lifted a ban on federal funding for the procedures through Medicare, meaning that U.S. taxpayers may soon be subsidizing thousands of the costly elective procedures.
In a letter dated June 13, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) notified federal employers that beginning in 2015, it will no longer require federally-subsidized health insurance policies to exclude “services, drugs, or supplies related to sex transformations.” However, the OPM is not yet mandating that such services be covered. Federal employers will be allowed to choose whether or not to offer the coverage, but must notify the OPM in writing of their decision by June 30.
Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Washington Blade that she was pleased with the decision to lift the ban, but warned that federal employers may face legal action if they fail to extend coverage, despite OPM’s policy allowing them to choose.
“We think they’ll be in violation of the law if they don’t cover it, not because of what OPM did … but because it’s a covered category in job discrimination,” Keisling told the Blade. “Trans people are protected by Title VII. We think it’s illegal sex discrimination if they exclude care for trans people that they allow other people to have.”
Sex-change procedures typically include hormone treatments and extensive plastic surgery, and range in cost from $25,000 to $75,000, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-homosexual and transgender advocacy group. Previously, all federal funding for the elective procedure was banned on the grounds that the physical risks – including major infection, bleeding, organ damage, and nerve damage – outweighed the perceived benefits. But Obama administration officials ruled last month that the ban was outdated and “no longer reasonable,” having been enacted in the early 1980s.
“Transsexual surgery is safe and effective and not experimental,” the ruling read.
Although the number of sex-change procedures covered by taxpayers is expected to be relatively small, transgender activists say the real value of the Obama administration’s reversal of the ban is the pressure it puts on state-level and private insurers to follow suit.
“No health insurance company should get to decide whether a transgender person has access to the medical care their doctor prescribes,” said Rea Carey, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a statement. “We commend the Obama administration for standing on the right side of history, and look forward to the day when every health insurance plan in America is affirmatively required to offer the full range of medical care transgender people need.”
Some prominent psychiatrists have openly condemned “sex-change” surgeries, including the former psychiatrist-in-chief of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Paul McHugh, who has criticized supporters of sex-change surgery as “collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.”
Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatric expert and analyst for Fox News, told LifeSiteNews earlier this year that he believes the medical profession may come to regret the quickness with which they embraced these radical procedures in their attempt to address the problem of gender confusion.
“We don’t know as psychiatrists precisely where any fixed and false belief comes from,” Ablow said. “And if it turns out that people who think they are locked in the wrong gender body could have been approached with something other than a scalpel, then we’ll be responsible as a field for not having been more diligent in seeking those answers as to where this comes from.”