120,000 sign petition for Medicare to cover gender-affirming surgery


transgender flag stock photo medicare gender affirmation surgery petition
Images: Torbak Hopper/Creative Commons, Parliament of Australia

More than 121,000 people have signed a parliamentary petition calling on the federal government to cover gender-affirming surgery on Medicare.

The petition attracted thousands of signatures in its first 24 hours last week, and has gone viral on social media. Over 121,000 people have now signed it.

“Transgender people and other people in need of gender-affirming surgery must pay a lot of money, up to $30,000, [to] finally have their outward appearance match how they truly feel on the inside,” the petition reads.

“We therefore ask the House to make gender-affirming and gender reassignment services eligible for Medicare benefits.

“These surgeries are essential for the mental health and wellbeing of select people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

The petition is open to all Australian citizens and residents to sign at the Parliament website here. It closes on October 21.

Once the parlimentary e-petitions close, they go to the federal parliament for a response from the relevant Minister.

Medicare ‘doesn’t sufficiently cover’ trans healthcare

Speaking on the issue last November, Teddy Cook from ACON and peak body AusPATH told SBS that Medicare “does not currently provide sufficient coverage” for gender-affirming procedures and consultations.

Depending on the procedures, patients can typically expect out-of-pocket costs of anywhere between $8,000-$80,000, he said. This sadly puts the care out of reach of many trans and gender diverse people.

Some Australians may be eligible for early release of superannuation towards the costs, according to the TransHub website.

Teddy Cook said medical gender affirmation is “life-saving” for many trans people. However there are very few surgeons in Australia who offer the surgical procedures.

“Currently, medical gender affirmation in Australia, be it access to puberty suppression, hormones, surgery or post-operative care, can be difficult to find, expensive and fraught with discrimination, stigma and rejection from care,” he said.

A Department of Health spokesperson told SBS at the time that Medicare rebates are available for a “range of surgical procedures” in the gender affirmation process.

“Patients may also receive a Medicare rebate for specialist consultations… in the context of gender confirmation surgery,” the spokesperson said.

However, they added “decisions about which procedures are provided.. is a matter for each jurisdiction and individual hospital.”

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