Florida Governor DeSantis Stamps Down Hard on Transgender Healthcare for Minors

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has led his administration to request the state medical board prohibit all healthcare related to the transgender transition of children. Another state agency has released an official report explaining the reasons for the restrictions on transgender individuals using state Medicaid for gender-affirming healthcare. (Medicaid is the health-insurance program of the federal government that assists low-income individuals throughout the United States.) The agency's decisions in Florida follow on the heels of an advisory issued by the State Department of Health, which recommended ignoring the federal guidelines on health and provided suggestions that healthcare providers not offer treatment to transgender minors.

Florida isn't alone. There's a wave of Republican-led legislation and policies in other states restricting access to healthcare for transgender children and prohibiting them from sports participation. The 46-page report was published by the State's Agency for Health Care Administration in June. The report dispelled studies that attempted to justify an outright ban of Medicaid treatment for transgender people, regardless of age. It would have covered hormone therapy, hormonal blockers, and gender-reassignment surgery.

Following the report, Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general, informed the state board of doctors that regulates doctors that the information from physicians who favor gender-affirming treatment is, according to his words, “extraordinarily weak.” He also stated that Florida must “protect children from politics-based medicine.” This was in a letter made public through NBC News.

Florida has made these decisions despite established medical groups having issued different guidelines. A few of these organizations comprise the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The most recent data from Florida was quickly criticized by medical professionals as well as LGBT+ advocates. If Florida implements their plans for state Medicaid, the state would become the 11th state with exclusions for gender-affirming healthcare. This is in spite of federal court precedents that have held that such exclusions violate federal law, the Affordable Care Act, and Medicaid Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

The Human Rights Campaign has reportedly estimated that the denial of Medicaid for this section of the population would affect around 9,000 transgender people across Florida. The campaign wrote that Florida's actions were a clear attempt to provoke controversy and ignore the medically appropriate treatment for certain Floridians, based on strictly partisan reasons that constitute discrimination. “Gender-affirming care is lifesaving—that, unlike the material in this report, is a fact—and this medical care is neither experimental, nor new,” said Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign's state director for legislative and senior counsel.

The National Center for Transgender Equality released a statement stating, “Banning gender-affirming care under Medicaid as well as trying to block gender-affirming healthcare for children is completely irresponsible. This is only going to create more barriers faced by transgender patients seeking medically needed treatment–and the choice is highly biased and unscientific”.

Carlos Smith, a Florida state representative and an outspoken LGBT+ state legislator, said the governor's administration is trying to remove the rights of transgender people to access healthcare and their parental rights to provide for their children. “There's no solid conservative ideology in this case. There's just a desire for cruelty and to exploit vulnerable people to further his presidential ambitions,” he said.

The pressure is growing on Governor DeSantis, who continues to remain firm on GOP principles.

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