Despite the multiple benefits of gender-affirming surgery for treatment of gender dysphoria, research shows that barriers to care still exist. Third-party payers play a pivotal role in enabling access to transition-related care. The authors assessed insurance coverage of genital reconstructive (“bottom”) surgery and evaluated the differences between policy criteria and international standards of care.
A cross-sectional analysis of insurance policies for coverage of bottom surgery was conducted. Insurance companies were selected based on their state enrollment data and market share. A Web-based search and telephone interviews were performed to identify the policies and coverage status. Medical necessity criteria were abstracted from publicly available policies.
Fifty-seven insurers met inclusion criteria. Almost one in 10 providers did not hold a favorable policy for bottom surgery. Of the 52 insurers who provided coverage, 17 percent held criteria that matched international recommendations. No single criterion was universally required by insurers. Minimum age and definition of gender dysphoria were the requirements with most variation across policies. Almost one in five insurers used proof of legal name change as a coverage requirement. Ten percent would provide coverage for fertility preservation, while 17 percent would cover reversal of the procedure.
Despite the medical necessity, legislative mandates, and economic benefits, global provision of gender-affirming genital surgery is not in place. Furthermore, there is variable adherence to international standards of care. Use of surplus criteria, such as legal name change, may act as an additional barrier to care even when insurance coverage is provided.