By MICHAEL GORMLEY
ALBANY, N.Y. – Shortly after an advisory panel raised the idea of using Medicaid to pay for transgender surgery, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health department dropped it.
“No consideration is being given to any change in current state policy and any proposal to have gender reassignment surgery funded by Medicaid would be rejected,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah.
Last week, the working group for Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Task Force had proposed to “provide Medicaid coverage for transgender surgery/hormone replacement therapy and treatment.” The proposal to use government funds for the surgery for the poor and working poor had not reached the full team, where it could have been recommended or rejected.
Cuomo’s immediate response was less definitive, saying simply he hadn’t yet reviewed any recommendations from the working group. The story first reported by the New York Post quickly made national headlines.
There was no immediate comment Friday from the Empire State Pride Agenda, powerful advocates who worked closely with Cuomo to legalize gay marriage in landmark legislation this summer.
Empire Pride defended using Medicaid funds as medically necessary. The organization notes that denial of the surgery can lead to depression, suicide attempts and substance abuse, all costly for the Medicaid system.
California and Minnesota already use Medicaid funds for the surgery.
Federal funds pay half of New York’s Medicaid program, with the state paying 40 percent and localities 10 percent.