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Agency for Health Care Administration set to decide on Medicaid coverage of gender dysphoria therapies

'This rule change may cost lives,' Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says
Posted at 5:43 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 17:43:25-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration is poised to end Medicaid coverage of gender dysphoria treatments as soon as this week.

AHCA is set to decide after the public comment window closes at 5 p.m. Monday.

Officials said hundreds of people have weighed in on the controversial rule change.

If approved, the rule eliminates Medicaid coverage of puberty-blocking meds, hormone therapies, and sex-reassignment surgeries to combat gender dysphoria. Florida would join at least nine other states explicitly denying access to those therapies.

RELATED: Florida agency considers stripping transgender therapies from Medicaid coverage

As of Monday morning, AHCA received about 1,200 total public comments from opponents and supporters.

AHCA has justified the change, saying in a recent report there's "insufficient evidence" that the therapies are safe and effective.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo tweeted that "Florida doesn't support the medicalization of minors with GD because the benefits are unproven, and the risks are extraordinarily high."

Ladapo, a Gov. Ron DeSantis appointee, also shared a clip of Chloe Cole, a fellow supporter of the change.

The 17-year-old said she regretted her decision to start the treatments at 13.

"I don't know if I'll be able to carry a child," Cole said in the video clip. "I might be at higher risk for certain cancers. … This was not the path that I should have taken."

LGBTQ advocates stand staunchly opposed to the possible changes. They note the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the treatments and warn the change could impact upwards of 9,000 transgender Floridians.

"The vast majority of medical experts fundamentally disagree with what the state is proposing," state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park, said.

The lawmaker is a strong LGBTQ advocate, warning upwards of 9,000 transgender Floridians will be impacted by the rule change.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith speaks out against the possible end Medicaid coverage of gender dysphoria treatments.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith explains why he is against the possible end of Medicaid coverage for gender dysphoria treatments.

Cutting access to their treatments, he said, could have dire consequences.

"It's more than just being mean-spirited against trans people. This rule change may cost lives," Smith said.

AHCA Secretary Simone Marstiller, a self-described Christian conservative, will have the final say on whether to adopt the new rule. As the agency’s head, officials said she would have as much time as desired to make the decision. It could come very soon or after a review of the pile of public comments.

Even with Marstiller's expected approval, the debate over the change will likely spill into the courts.

Lambda Legalrecently said it was preparing to challenge the rule's constitutionality soon after its formal adoption.