New data shows thousands of transgender Medicaid beneficiaries sought care in Florida

“Our state health department is acting like this is the most important issue facing our state and the health of our children right now,” Haller said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s infuriating because it actually affects people’s access to care.”

Haller spoke on behalf of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, of which he is a member.

Florida’s Medicaid regulator, the Agency for Health Care Administration, released the data about three weeks after it blocked transition-related medical coverage in early August. The head of the Medicaid agency released a report in April saying there was not enough information to confirm the treatments were working. The agency is responsible for much of the state’s $36.2 billion program, which covers nearly 5.4 million people.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents. But medical experts said gender-affirming care for children rarely, if ever, includes surgery. Instead, doctors are more likely to recommend counseling, social transition, and hormone replacement therapy.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has pushed policies and laws seen as antagonistic toward the LGBTQ community, including publicly supporting the state’s new law that prohibits teachers from leading classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. genre for children in kindergarten through third grade. His support for such policies has helped raise his national profile as he eyes a possible run for the presidency in 2024.

In recent months, DeSantis has publicly opposed transition-related medical care for children, saying it disfigures young children before they are mature enough to make decisions about their sexuality. He said doctors who perform gender-affirming surgeries should be prosecuted — and he suspended Tampa’s top prosecutor, Andrew Warren, for supporting treatments for transgender people.

DeSantis also signed a law in 2021 prohibiting transgender women and girls from competing in women’s and women’s sports, stating at the time that “in Florida, girls will play girls’ sports and boys will play sports. of boys”. And earlier this month, the Florida Department of Health recommended that the state medical board consider banning gender-affirming treatments for minors.

Florida’s Medicaid program covered treatment for about 3,000 people in Florida from 2018 through 2022 — the only years the state has released such data. At least nine other states have similar bans in place, according to the nonprofit think tank Movement Advancement Project.

A coalition of groups opposed to restrictions on gender-affirming care, led by the Southern legal adviser, has pledged to file a federal lawsuit to end the new rules after they take effect Aug. 21.

Florida Medicaid regulator officials said, without providing evidence, that data shows health care providers are promoting risky treatments for gender dysphoria.

In a statement, AHCA spokesperson Brock Juarez pointed to an increase in the number of children receiving gender-affirming care, particularly in hormone therapy treatments. For example, the number of children who received puberty blockers increased from 15 children in 2018 to 55 in 2021.

“This is a concerning statistic and potentially indicative of a medical community increasingly focused on promoting treatments deemed experimental and experimental with the potential for long-term harmful effects,” Juarez wrote.

The data also shows an increase in the number of children receiving behavioral health therapy for gender dysphoria, from 143 children in 2018 to 233 in 2021. Juarez noted in his statement that 12 children underwent surgeries in 2021. One child underwent such surgery in 2018, according to Data.

Haller, however, said the data suggests such therapies are needed and accused the state of engaging in a “policy of culture war.”

“It’s not about the money,” Haller said. “Doctors don’t go into pediatrics, one of the lowest-paying fields of medicine, for the money.”

Juarez did not provide the full cost of Medicaid reimbursements associated with transgender care.

Jay Brown, senior vice president of programs, research and training at the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, said the data shows the Florida agency would be better served by leaving such a small fraction of enrollees to Medicaid alone.

“How someone transitions is their choice, to be done with their family, parents and doctor,” Brown wrote, adding, “not politicians trying to agitate an extremist base.”


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