The Greens want $15 million spent annually to cover out-of-pocket costs for trans and gender diverse Australians seeking gender-affirming healthcare.
This week, Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt tabled a 140,000 signature petition on the issue to parliament.
The petition, created by a young trans Australian, called for full Medicare coverage of gender-affirming and gender reassignment surgery.
It subsequently went viral and is one of the most popular ever on the parliament’s ePetition platform.
On Tuesday, Adam Bandt told parliament trans and gender-diverse people “deserve to feel affirmed for their gender expression.”
“For some, it can be lifesaving,” he said.
“In our current system, trans people have to spend up to $30,000 to access surgery and transitional health care because Medicare doesn’t cover it. This is unacceptable.
“No matter how much or how little money you have, you should be able to access health care that affirms your identity.
“It’s our duty to make sure that socioeconomic barriers don’t stop trans and gender diverse people from accessing lifesaving support services.
“Currently, numerous barriers exist in the healthcare system for disadvantaged trans and gender diverse people.
“Removing the socioeconomic barrier to affirmative health care is an important step in upholding our responsibility to care for trans and gender diverse people in this country.”
It’s our duty to make sure that socioeconomic barriers don’t stop trans and gender diverse people from accessing lifesaving support services.
It’s a privilege to be able to bring these 140,000 voices to parliament. pic.twitter.com/qHJmOFBcYR
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) November 24, 2021
Greens’ $15 million Medicare plan for trans health
Adam Bandt and Greens Senator Janet Rice unveiled the Greens’ $15 million a year plan to cover the out-of-pocket costs.
The Greens want surgical procedures, prescribed hormones, products and services to achieve authentic gender identity and expression provided as part of Medicare.
“Affirmative health care has incredibly positive consequences for trans and gender-diverse people,” Bandt said.
“[It improves] their mental health and reducing rates of suicide, especially among young people.
“Last year alone, nearly 50 per cent of trans and gender-diverse young people reported attempting suicide. We are failing them.”
Senator Rice said Australia doesn’t have a universal healthcare system until there’s “equal access to essential services”.
“Everyone has the right to have their specific health needs met with equity, dignity and respect,” Senator Rice said.
“It is the government’s responsibility to ensure this is no different for trans and gender diverse Australians.
“Healthcare is a human right… no matter how much is in your bank account.”
Health department says Medicare gives rebates for some services
Some gender-affirming surgery items are eligible for rebates under Medicare. However Australia’s few private surgeons set their own fees.
As a result, significant price gaps in the tens of thousands of dollars remain and must be covered out-of-pocket, SBS News reported.
While private health insurance can reduce those costs, many can’t afford insurance as well as the remaining costs.
A Department of Health spokesperson said before the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) can fund any procedure, an independent committee must assess its “safety, clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness”.
The spokesperson said there has been no application submitted to list an MBS item for gender-affirming surgery.
“A range of individual surgical procedures and consultation services which are listed on the MBS can be provided as part of the gender affirmation process,” the spokesperson said.
“The MBS items for specialist consultations with plastic and reconstructive surgeons and psychiatrists may also be relevant for some patients.
“There are a range of Medicare rebates for these services.”
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