Judge blocks Florida law banning Medicaid funding for trans surgeries, puberty blockers

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis | Octavio Jones/Getty Images

A judge in Florida has struck down a state measure that prohibits Medicaid coverage for puberty blockers and body-mutilating, cosmetic sex-change surgeries.

United States District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an injunction against Florida’s ban on the Medicaid funding of drugs such as puberty blockers and opposite-sex hormones, for those suffering temporary confusion about their birth sex, also known as gender dysphoria. 

“These plaintiffs are Medicaid beneficiaries who are entitled to payment, as a matter of medical necessity, for puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones as appropriately determined by their multidisciplinary teams of providers,” ruled Hinkle. “The rule and statute violate the federal Medicaid statute, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition of sex discrimination.”

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of two trans-identified adults and two trans-identified minors represented by Lambda Legal, Florida Health Justice Project, the National Health Law Program, Southern Legal Counsel and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel with Lambda Legal, said in a statement released Wednesday that the procedures the plaintiffs sought to have covered by Medicaid “is evidence-based care.”

“Over a two-week trial, the court heard from our clients, who have benefited from gender-affirming medical care, and from a contingent of medical and scientific experts from various disciplines,” stated Gonzalez-Pagan. “We are gratified by today’s result which protects access to care for some of the most vulnerable Floridians, transgender Medicaid beneficiaries.”

“… today’s ruling makes clear that discrimination is wrong and recognizes that every person in Florida, including transgender people, deserves equal access to evidence-based and lifesaving medical care.”

In August of last year, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration enacted a rule that prohibited the use of Medicaid funds to pay for puberty blockers and body mutilating surgeries, such as elective double mastectomies and chemical and surgical castration.

The rule came after the Florida agency had announced the findings of a review in June 2022, in which they concluded that such procedures were “not consistent with generally accepted professional medical standards and are experimental and investigational with the potential for harmful long-term affects.”

“Scientific studies supporting hormone replacement therapy, puberty blockers, and sex reassignment surgery for treating gender dysphoria are weak to very weak,” stated the agency last year.

“The evidence showing benefits from hormone replacement therapies for gender dysphoria is very weak … Scientific studies do not show that the use of puberty blockers improves mental health.”

The injunction against the Florida law comes the day after another judge struck down an Arkansas law banning sex-change surgeries and puberty blockers for minors. 

U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. of the Eastern District of Arkansas, an Obama appointee, issued the decision against Arkansas’ Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, or Act 626.

“If Act 626 takes effect, adolescents whose parents and doctors agree that gender-affirming medical care is appropriate treatment for their gender dysphoria will be unable to receive that care in their home state and unable to get referrals from their doctors to receive care in other states,” wrote Moody.

“This will cause irreparable harm to the Plaintiff adolescents, Plaintiff parents and Plaintiff doctor.”

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