Transgender surgeries, $8 million pricetag under consideration in SB163 debate

Transgender surgeries, $8 million pricetag under consideration in SB163 debate

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada’s share of paying for some surgeries for transgender patients could add up to about $8 million a year, according to a fiscal analysis of Senate Bill 163 (SB163).

While sex change operations and other major treatments for “gender dysphoria” are covered by Nevada Medicaid, a host of other surgeries defined as “cosmetic” are not. The Governor’s Office of Finance estimates an $8.3 million cost to the state for these other surgeries, which include “facial hair removal, hair transplants, facial feminization, partial mastectomy, tracheal shave and voice modification and therapy.”

Democratic Senator Melanie Scheible sponsored SB163, which requires insurance companies to cover treatment of conditions relating to gender dysphoria, gender incongruence and other disorders of sexual development.

Democratic Senator Melanie Scheible, sponsor of SB163.

Gender dysphoria is defined as discomfort or distress due to a “mismatch” between a person’s gender identity and their assigned gender at birth. Gender incongruence is condition of experiencing a mismatch between gender identity and a person’s physical sexual characteristics. That can include a desire to live under a different gender.

Both are recognized as medical conditions, but some states have challenged requirements to cover surgeries. SB163 is an attempt to put the requirements into Nevada Law — something Scheible says is the right thing to do.

“The current law already requires health plans to cover these treatments and procedures,” Scheible said. “This bill solidifies that requirement and ensures it remains the state of the law even in the face of changing federal laws and regulations.”

During testimony Wednesday, senators heard arguments by members of the LGBTQ community in support of SB163.

“I realize that our journey as trans people is not one that others can understand easily. But it’s not just about one person. It’s about thousands of Nevadans,” according to Sy Bernabei, executive director of Gender Justice of Nevada.

“We are people, like you, who have jobs and families, pay taxes, and genuinely want to be a vital part of society like everyone else. We are human beings and we deserve health care that reflects that.”

A similar bill that Scheible sponsored in 2021 failed to win approval when it wasn’t brought to a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

Lexa Baldwin testified, “Although my doctors ruled that facial feminization features are necessary because they cause me chronic distress — they frequently out me as trans — my insurance disregarded the determination of multiple medical professionals.”

Scheible also emphasized that the bill does not change anything related to treatment for minors. She said parental consent is still required, and insurance companies are given additional authority to require recommendations from doctors, mental health care professionals and even a written statement from the patient stating their desire for treatment.

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