For a very long time, gender-confirming surgery (what us old-timers know as sexual reassignment surgery, or “SRS”) has been banned from Medicare and Medicaid coverage. Most private insurance companies point to the Medicare/Medicaid restrictions for their restrictions, and this is why this is big news.
On December 13, 2013, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced they will review the ban on SRS. And there is some serious hope – under the current Administration, at least – that this review will lead to either a removal of the SRS ban, or else allow SRS under certain circumstances.
If that does come about, private insurers under Obamacare may be implicitly mandated to cover SRS, and it could lead to an explicit mandate before long. The questions and logistics will still need some work, however. Which doctors will accept Medicaid/Medicare, how much will they be reimbursed, will private insurance companies actually follow suit – these and many other questions will soon require answers.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that if this comes to pass, Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act will use this as a public relations level: “ZOMG! Obamacare is paying for people to get their dicks chopped off! Death panels! Deeeeeeeeeeeeeath panels!”