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Illinois Medicaid to cover "gender affirming" surgery

Gender - The Space Between

Illinois' Medicaid program will begin to cover gender affirming surgery, the state's Department of Healthcare and Family services (HFS) said in a statement last week. Medicaid members 21 and older, who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, will be eligible for genital and breast-related surgeries, according to the statement.

"Healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and I'm committed to ensuring our LGBTQ community and all Illinoisans have access to that right," Governor J.B. Pritzker said in the statement. "Expanding Medicaid to cover gender affirming surgeries is cost effective, helps avoid long term health consequences, and most importantly is the right thing to do."

17 states and the District of Columbia already offer these services, the agency said. "In studying other state policies, the Department found that in addition to addressing the struggles associated with gender dysphoria, gender affirming surgery is also cost-effective," the statement read.

1,400 of the 3.1 million Medicaid members in Illinois are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, recent data shows, according to the agency. Last year, around 2,500 prescriptions for hormone therapy were covered. 

"Never that kind of girl"

The department made this announcement the week of International Transgender Day of Visibility, which is observed on March 31.

"With continued attacks coming from Washington, this administration will always stand with our transgender community and their right to lead safe and healthy lives," Governor Pritzker said. The program will likely become available this summer. 

Last month, The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state could not deny Medicaid coverage for the surgeries of two transgender women, The Associated Press reports.

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