Let taxpayers foot sex-op bill: panel
By CARL CAMPANILE
Last Updated: 11:10 AM, September 29, 2011
Posted: 12:18 AM, September 29, 2011
A state panel advising Gov. Cuomo wants taxpayers to foot the bill for transgender residents to get “sexual-reassignment surgery,” allowing them to change their physical characteristics from a man to a woman or woman to man, The Post has learned.
New York’s costliest-in-the-nation Medicaid program would cover the tab.
“Provide Medicaid coverage for transgender surgery/hormone replace-ment therapy and treatment,” read the proposal submitted by the state “health disparities work group.’’
The panel is submitting recommendations to Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team for possible inclusion in the governor’s budget plan.
A state Health Department spokesman confirmed that requiring Medicaid to cover gender reassignment surgery is being considered by the governor’s team.
“Medicaid doesn’t cover the surgery,” said the Health Department’s Jeff Gordon.
“This issue is under review by the Medicaid Redesign Team.”
The proposal, coming just months after Cuomo won national attention for steering a gay-marriage law through the state Legislature, came under fire from the political right.
“This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long
“This is an expensive mandate. We already live in the highest-taxed state in the nation.”
Long insisted sex-change procedures are cosmetic and encourage permissiveness, adding, “I hope the governor doesn’t push the envelope on this.’’
The idea will face resistance in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
“It doesn’t seem to be appropriate,” said Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau).
But supporters of transgender surgery said New York will be hard pressed to continue to bar what health experts — including the American Medical Medical Association — now call “medically necessary’’ procedures to help patients with “gender-identity disorder.’’
Barring Medicaid coverage to transgender people amounts to discrimination, advocates have maintained.
‘‘We believe Medicaid should cover health care that is medically necessary,’’ said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay and transgender rights advocacy group.
Levi said at least two other states –CaliforniaandMinnesota– provide Medicaid coverage for transgender surgery and hormone replacement therapy.
He said he was hopeful that Cuomo, who supports passage of a transgender civil-rights bill, will back the Medicaid proposal.
Advocates say there are tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are transgender.
New York’s Medicaid exclusion of medical services for gender surgery was adopted in 1997, based on the assumption that such procedures were ‘‘experimental’’ and not a medical necessity, according to an analysis by the New York City Bar Association.
The report said a large number of transgender residents are poor people who qualify for Medicaid, the public health insurance for the needy.
“New York’s Medicaid exclusion for gender reassignment services denies health insurance on the basis of gender identity, and is based on outdated interpretations of medical need,” said the Bar Association’s committee on transgender rights.