The Obama administration has withdrawn a proposal to allow Medicare to pay for sex-change operations.
The policy change was expected to draw criticism from Congress and perhaps taxpayers. However, the Department of Health and Human Services said Friday the proposal was withdrawn until the agency’s appeals board considers a challenge to the federal government’s existing policy that such operations are experimental and should not be covered by Medicare or Medicaid, according to The Hill.
“An administrative challenge to our 1981 Medicare national coverage determination concerning sex reassignment surgery was just filed," an agency spokesperson told the newspaper Friday. "This administrative challenge is being considered and working its way through the proper administrative channels. In light of the challenge, we are no longer re-opening the national coverage determination for reconsideration."
The decision was made during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness Week, in which Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will help improve health care for such Americans and that the president asked her after the law was enacted to “identify steps” the agency could take to improve such patients’ health and well being.
Supporters of the proposed change argue the medical procedures and related treatments are no longer experimental and that research shows they improve the lives of transsexual patients.
The Human Rights Campaign, a leading national advocacy group for transgender Americans, did not respond to a request for comment.