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Federal panel rules that private Medicare plan must cover Texas trans veteran’s reassignment surgery

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A U.S. government panel has ruled that a privately run Medicare plan must cover sex reassignment surgery for a Texas transgender woman, a decision her attorney said was the first of its kind.

Charlene Lauderdale, a U.S. Air Force veteran, first sought surgery through her UnitedHealthcare/AARP Medicare Complete insurance plan in November 2014. The federally funded plan, operated by a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc, denied the request.

An administrative law judge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled last April that the plan must cover the surgery, and the agency’s Medicare Appeals Council upheld that decision this month.

Lauderdale’s lawyer, Ezra Young, said he received the council’s decision on Thursday.

“I am so relieved that I can now get the medical care that I have needed for so long,” Lauderdale, 55, said in a press release. “I hope that my decision will help other transgender Americans who have also been denied health care.”

Until May 2014, Medicare excluded all sex reassignment surgery. Since that ban was lifted, coverage decisions for surgery and other transgender health services under Medicare have been made on a case-by-case basis.

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According to Young, many transgender patients have been unable to get coverage for sex reassignment surgery because insurers or contractors hired by Medicare to make such determinations have decided the procedure is cosmetic, or not medically necessary, among other reasons.

Young said the decision in Lauderdale’s case was the first time HHS ordered a Medicare Advantage plan to cover sex reassignment surgery. Though the decision is not legally binding on other cases, Young said he believed it would set an important “guidepost.”

In reaching its decision, the appeals council cited standards of care developed by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, which first released such standards in 1979.

It rejected UnitedHealthcare’s argument that the surgery was not right for Lauderdale because she had suffered psychiatric problems, which led to four hospitalizations in 2014.

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The council noted that untreated gender dysphoria, a feeling that a person’s body does not match his or her gender, can itself cause psychological distress.

If UnitedHealthcare wants to challenge the decision, it must bring a lawsuit in federal court, according to Young.

A spokeswoman for UnitedHealthcare could not immediately be reached for comment.

HHS is currently considering a proposed regulation that would forbid private insurers from discriminating against transgender patients, as well.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Anthony Lin and David Gregorio)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Evangelicals wildly chant ‘4 more years’ after Trump claims mothers are ‘executing’ their infants after birth

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Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition 2019 Road to Majority Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, President Donald Trump claimed that infants were being "executed" after birth.

"Unfortunately, Democrat politicians have become increasingly hostile to pro-life Americans, who want to help more children find a loving home and share their dreams with the world," Trump told the evangelical crowd.

"Virtually every top Democrat now supports taxpayer-funded abortion right up to the moment of birth. By the way, if you watched Virginia, the governor, after the moment of birth -- that was something that nobody -- that was something that nobody heard of before. After the moment of birth."

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Meghan McCain explodes after Whoopi Goldberg compares US record on LGBT rights to Iran

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Meghan McCain slammed Iran for its treatment of LGBT people, and she lashed out when Whoopi Goldberg reminded her of the Republican Party's less-than-stellar record on equal rights.

"The View" co-host condemned Iran's harshly oppressive treatment of women and LGBT people, as its leaders engage in an escalating war of words with President Donald Trump.

"When you are a leader of a country that throws gay people off of roofs for being gay, and stone women in the street for wearing tank tops, how dare you judge our country," McCain said.

Goldberg stepped in to say the U.S. didn't have a spotless history in that regard.

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Teen brutally attacks Hispanic mother after she got him suspended by school for racist abuse of her son

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A student at New Jersey school has been accused of brutally beating a Hispanic mother after she complained about her son being subjected to racist abuse.

NJ.com reports that 35-year-old Beronica Ruiz, whose son attends the Passaic Gifted and Talented Academy School No. 20 in Passaic, New Jersey, went to complain to administrators after her son had been subjected to bigoted taunts and threats of violence from other students.

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