Illinois Medicaid to cover gender reassignment surgery

(WDBJ7) -- Lawmakers in Illinois say that the state's Medicaid program will begin to cover gender-affirming surgery. The state's Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced the change in a statement last week.

"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.

According to the agency, 1,400 of the 3.1 million Medicaid members in Illinois are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, recent data shows.

In 2018, around 2,500 prescriptions for hormone therapy were covered., according to CBS News.

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 sex reassignment surgeries of two transgender women, The Associated Press reports.