The Biden administration is expanding the range of taxpayer-financed "gender-affirming" health care options available to federal employees, starting in 2023, according to an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) explanation of federal benefits released in late September.
"OPM continues to focus on ways our Carriers can improve access to gender-affirming care for transgender and gender diverse individuals," the agency said.
The expansion of this care comes just after the national debt hit $31 trillion and fiscal year 2022 ended with an estimated budget deficit of $1.4 trillion. OPM said health care costs for federal employees is contributing to the increased debt load – premiums under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program are expected to rise an average of 7.2% next year, and the government is expected to face a cost increase of about that amount.
Some of this cost increase reflects a broader range of treatment options for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria. For example, OPM said that starting in 2023, all health care providers offering service under the FEHB program will provide coverage for "fertility preservation procedures" for people facing the possibility of "infertility associated with medical and surgical gender transition treatment."
All providers have made sure they have "equitable access to medications" and can provide "coverage of medically necessary hormonal therapies for gender transition care," OPM said.
Providers are all working with recognized entities to ensure they are providing "evidence-based benefits and coverage" for gender-affirming care, such as the World Professional Association of Transgender Health or others. They will all give patients the option of being guided by a care coordinator as they seek gender-affirming care, according to OPM.
Additionally, all providers have reviewed their own medical literature to ensure the use of "inclusive and gender-neutral terminology" as they discuss these medical options.
OPM outlined these changes in a document that explains a broad range of health care options for federal workers. Enrollment in these plans will take place between mid-November and mid-December.
President Joe Biden last year issued an executive order that required federal agencies to adopt a diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) agenda. That order directed agencies to work with OPM to ensure their existing policies provide supportive services for employees who "wish to legally, medically, or socially transition."
Several agencies discuss how to expand access to care for transgender employees in their policies, outlining how they will implement the DEIA agenda.
For example, the State Department plan states that the agency will assess how it can use resources to cover "gender dysphoria and gender transition care" for employees and their children. The agency did not respond to questions about what is included in this care but told Fox News Digital that the document "represents a starting place for discussion."
The Department of Energy said it will establish a new policy for "gender identity and gender transition" to "support transgender and nonbinary colleagues." The agency told Fox News Digital that the policy is aimed at ensuring there is easier access at its department to already established federal coverage and support for transgender employees.
The Department of Agriculture plan says it wants to "ensure that the federal health benefits system equitably serves all LGBTQI+ employees and their families." The department did not respond to a request for comment on whether this includes gender-transition treatments.
A White House official emphasized in a statement to Fox News Digital that gender-transition coverage for federal employees existed prior to the Biden administration and is similar to plans at prominent corporations.
OPM told Fox News Digital that the expansion of its gender-transition coverage helps it compete with the private sector.
"The federal government strives to be competitive as an employer, and we are committed to providing important, comprehensive healthcare benefits to all federal employees, including LGBTQ+ employees," a spokesperson wrote.
An estimated 21 percent of employers offer transgender health benefits, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
The Obama administration's OPM said in 2016 that federal benefit carriers are unable to exclude services, drugs or supplies related to "gender transition" or "sex transformations." But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declared months later under the same administration that there was not enough evidence on the effectiveness of gender-transition surgeries to expand its coverage under Medicare.
Biden promoted gender-transition treatments as "life-saving care" in response to Republican efforts to ban hormone therapy for minors. The Department of Justice warned Republican state attorneys general in March that bans on transgender treatments are illegal under anti-discrimination laws.
The Department of Health and Human Services defines gender-affirming care as "an array of services that may include medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary people."