Renewed calls for medicare to cover gender affirmation surgery

A new report, highlighted by The Australian, calls for many of the operations required for gender affirming surgery to be covered by Medicare.

The Victorian report highlights there is a lack of surgeons in Australia who offer gender reassignment surgery which results in many people heading overseas to undertake the operations. The report argues that it would be better for more Australian doctors to offer the surgery to reduce the risk to people.

The report also calls for many of the operations to be covered by medicare arguing that it not simply a cosmetic procedure, but an essential step that leads people to live happier and more productive lives.

Calls to have the surgeries covered by Medicare are nothing new, the Tasmanian branch of the Labor party voted in favour of such a policy last year, and OUTinPerth published calls for a policy change back in 2012.

While not all people who are transgender choose to have gender affirming surgery, for those who do it can be a costly process with bill up to $70,000 and higher.

Recent studies have also shown that transgender people who want surgery, and are able to access it, also have lower mental health costs in the long run.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked into ten years of data from Sweden, and focussed on 2,679 people who had been treated for gender incongruence. While the report found that people who suffer gender dysphoria had higher levels of mental health concerns, those who choose to undertake surgery had less mental health needs in the following years.

Co-author of the study Richard Bränström spoke to Newsweek and acknowledged that the results in Sweden may not be the same in other countries with different levels of medical support.

“This study was done in Sweden, a country with universal health care and relatively strong social welfare system. It is important to understand the situation of transgender individuals in other countries in the world and other regional settings.”

On August 1 2020 The American Journal of Psychiatry published a correction to the research highlighted in this article.

Following it’s initial publication the journal received many letters questioning the statistical methodology of the study and after reviewing their work the researchers found that; “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care visits or prescriptions or hospitalizations following suicide attempts in that comparison.”  The authors conceded that the results of their analysis had been overstated. 



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