Transgender beneficiaries sue Florida over Medicaid limit

Until this month, Medicaid paid for August Dekker’s testosterone treatment, which made a transgender man from Florida’s Gulf Coast feel like he was living in his own skin. But now he’s struggling to figure out how to pay for treatment in the future as Florida last month began limiting Medicaid coverage for gender-proven transgender care.

Dekker and three other plaintiffs sued Florida health officials Wednesday, alleging the rule change was unconstitutional.

“This treatment was recommended by my doctors. Denying healthcare is wrong and harmful,” said Dekker, 28, who lives in Hernando County, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Tampa.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tallahassee, says the rule change will have severe emotional, physical and psychological consequences for transgender Medicaid beneficiaries in Florida if it remains in place. The rule change violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Patient Protection Section of the Affordable Care Act and the Medical Care Act, the lawsuit says, seeking an injunction to stop further enforcement of it.

The Florida Health Agency previously released a report stating that puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery have not been proven to be safe or effective in treating gender dysphoria, which is disputed by the American Medical Association and many physicians and psychiatrists. specialists.

In an email, Brock Juarez, director of communications for the Florida agency, described the lawsuit as motivated by “partisan” groups “so blinded by their own political agenda that they are ignoring the evidence found in our meticulous rulemaking process and in the AHCA report, which promoted him. .”

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“According to our rules, only treatments that are determined to be safe, effective, and meet medical necessity criteria can be covered,” Juarez said.

Last year, the American Medical Association issued a letter calling on governors to block any anti-medication laws, calling such actions “a dangerous intrusion into medical practice.” The letter noted that medical treatment is among several “supportive interventions” being promoted for transgender minors.

Only eight other states have limits on Medicaid coverage for genital care, and that number is declining, said Carl Charles, senior lawyer at Lamba Legal, one of several advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“It’s 180 for Florida and it’s especially worrisome because they’ve been covering it for Medicaid for years,” Charles said.

Critics say the rule change is just the latest crackdown on transgender people by the administration of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election this year and touted as a possible GOP candidate for president in 2024.

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Earlier this year, his administration issued guidance that ran counter to federal regulations by opposing gender reassignment surgery for children and teens and puberty blockers for those under 18. Last year, DeSantis signed a law banning transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams. for student-athletes identified as girls at birth.

In addition to Dekker, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include a 20-year-old transgender man from the Fort Lauderdale area who is attending college in Orlando; 12-year-old transgender girl from Florida’s Space Coast; and a 12-year-old transgender boy from the Sarasota area. The minor plaintiffs were represented in the trial by their parents.

Jade LaDue, the mother of a 12-year-old boy, said he is taking medication that delays puberty and allows him to avoid emotional harm from a gender he doesn’t identify with. She said her family is considering moving out of the state if her son can’t get treatment.

“He has always been a boy. He never had a choice,” Ladue said. “We are very worried about this and what will happen to him. We want the best for our child.”

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