Gov. DeSantis moves to ban transition care for transgender youths, Medicaid recipients

Gov. DeSantis moves to ban transition care for transgender youths, Medicaid recipients

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration Thursday asked the state board regulating doctors to essentially ban transition-related care for transgender minors, according to a letter obtained by NBC News.

The state Health Department made the request hours after another state agency issued a 46-page report to justify banning Medicaid coverage for transgender people of any age who want puberty blockers, hormone therapies or gender-reassignment surgery.

This legislation would ensure that DeSantis could act swiftly and without the need for legislative approval. Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who oversees the Health Department, will lead the initiative.

In April, Ladapo issued guidance recommending against transgender treatments for minors who feel their bodies and their gender identities are misaligned. It contradicted guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Joe Biden, and transgender rights activists and 300 state health care professionals accused Florida of cherry-picking evidence and performing incomplete research.

Ladapo then asked the Florida Board of Medicine to “establish a standard of care” Thursday that could ultimately result in prohibiting doctors from prescribing the therapies for transgender youths. The process could take months, and it’s unclear how many people it could affect.

“While some professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society, recommend these treatments for ‘gender affirming’ care, the scientific evidence supporting these complex medical interventions is extraordinarily weak,” Ladapo wrote in his letter.

“The current standards set by numerous professional organizations appear to follow a preferred political ideology instead of the highest level of generally accepted medical science,” he wrote. “Florida must do more to protect children from politics-based medicine.”

Health care professionals and activists have hit out at the legislation. “It’s unconstitutional for the government to step in and deprive youth, and especially trans youth of getting the necessary medical care they need,” said Gary Howell, a psychologist in Tampa who has transgender youth and adult patients.

“This interferes with the rights of parents,” Howell said, drawing attention to DeSantis’ crusade for parental rights when it comes to teaching kids about race, gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom.

Howell said doctors aren’t just prescribing puberty blockers or hormones without adequate safeguards or without the informed consent of caring and involved parents. He said that operations for children, mainly mastectomies for transgender boys, are exceedingly rare and that they occur only after multiple evaluations.

DeSantis’s administration noted that Sweden and Finland, which were among the first to engage in prescribing a broad range of transition-related care for transgender children, have severely cut back on this now.

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