Gender Surgery beyond Chest and Genitals: Current Insurance Landscape

Ledibabari M. Ngaage, Katie L. Mcglone, Shan Xue, Brooks J. Knighton, Caroline A. Benzel, Erin M. Rada, Devin Coon, Jens Berli, Yvonne M. Rasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Plastic surgery plays an essential role in the treatment of gender dysphoria. International standards of care currently consider genital and chest surgeries to be medically necessary. Ancillary procedures such as facial surgery, chondrolaryngoplasty, hair restoration/removal, and body contouring are considered cosmetic surgeries except in individual circumstances. Objective: The authors sought to assess the frequency of coverage provision for ancillary transition-related surgeries through a cross-sectional analysis of US insurance policies. Methods: The authors selected insurance companies based on state enrollment data and market share. Policies were identified through web-based search and telephone interviews. A list of eligible procedures was compiled and grouped into 5 categories: body masculinization, body feminization, facial procedures, hair restoration/removal, and chondrolaryngoplasty. Medical necessity criteria from publicly accessible policies were then abstracted. Results: Sixty-one insurance companies held an established policy. One-third of these policies offered favorable coverage for at least 1 ancillary procedure. Chondrolaryngoplasty was the most covered category (26%, n = 16), whereas body masculinization was the least covered (8%, n = 5). Almost two-thirds of the companies with favorable policies listed coverage criteria. We identified 4 recurring requirements: age, hormone therapy, continuous living in a congruent gender role, and referral from a mental health professional. Conclusions: There is a low prevalence of US insurance coverage for ancillary gender surgeries and wide variability in coverage criteria. Reevaluation of ancillary transition-related procedures from cosmetic to medically necessary based on clinical judgement or establishment of defined coverage criteria may augment coverage and better address the needs of transgender patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)NP202-NP210
JournalAesthetic surgery journal
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 23 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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