TAMPA, Fla. – Two Tampa Bay area people are among those suing the DeSantis administration to challenge Florida’s new rule for gender-affirming healthcare within the Medicaid program.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) changed who can get reimbursed for treatments and medications on August 21. It excludes reimbursements for gender-affirming healthcare such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.
Dekker is one of four people suing the FAHCA. Attorneys filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Tallahassee, saying the new rule discriminates and violates the constitution.
“Florida had been covering this care for, as far as we know, at least a few decades and without issue,” said Carl Charles, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal’s southern regional office.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is one of the groups representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Charles said that around 9,000 transgender Medicaid beneficiaries rely on Florida’s Medicaid program for gender-affirming care. In Tampa Bay, that included adults like Dekker and children.
A 12-year-old Sarasota County boy is among those suing. According to the lawsuit, his mother said he takes puberty blockers.
“He loves life, and part of the reason he loves life is because he’s able to be who he is. And without that care, his life would look very different,” said Charles. “It will take him to a really dark place, is how his parents described it to us.”
But Governor Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, backs the decision.
“You don’t disfigure 10, 12, 13-year-old kids based on gender dysphoria. Eighty percent of it resolves anyways by the time they get older,” said DeSantis.
The DeSantis administration said the change reflects coverage of safe and effective treatments.
“They talk about these very young kids getting gender-affirming care, but they don’t tell you what that is they’re actually giving very young girls double mastectomies. They want to castrate these young boys. That’s wrong,” said DeSantis.
Attorneys for the transgender adults and children said the rule change is what harms them.
“This is not a stereotype. This is not a joke or a punch line. This is real people’s lives,” said Charles.
Lambda Legal is asking the court to stop the rule while the lawsuit is litigated in the court system.
The Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine is scheduled to meet on September 30 to discuss a draft rule restricting doctors from providing treatments to transgender people under age 18, and it is backed by the Florida Department of Health.