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Florida bill would outlaw treatments for transgender youth, prevent insurance coverage

Doctors could lose their licenses if they commit violations.
Florida Rep. Randy Fine, center, views maps on a video monitor during a Florida House of Representatives Redistricting Committee hearing in a legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee.
Florida Rep. Randy Fine, center, views maps on a video monitor during a Florida House of Representatives Redistricting Committee hearing in a legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published March 3

TALLAHASSEE — Two House Republicans filed a proposal Friday that would make it illegal for doctors to provide treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender minors.

The bill (HB 1421), filed by House Health & Human Services Chairman Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, and Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, is the latest in a series of moves by lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration aimed at transgender people.

The Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine last month moved forward with rules that would prevent doctors from providing such treatments to minors. But the bill would go further by placing a prohibition in state law — and requiring that doctors lose their licenses if they commit violations.

Related: Florida to ban care for transgender youth — even in clinical trials

Also, the bill would make changes including preventing health insurers and HMOs from providing coverage for treatments such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery; barring state agencies, local governments and colleges and universities from spending money on such treatments; and largely blocking people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The bill, which was filed as lawmakers prepare to start the annual legislative session Tuesday, likely will add fuel to debates that have repeatedly flared in Florida and numerous other Republican-controlled states about treatment for gender dysphoria. The federal government defines gender dysphoria clinically as “significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity.”

Fine’s committee last month held a panel discussion that included doctors, researchers and other people opposed to gender-affirming care for transgender minors. At that time, Fine indicated he would file legislation on the issue. Massullo, meanwhile, is a dermatologist.

“I will tell you this. I say these panels are often a predicate for what’s to come. That’s exactly what today was. And I promise you, you will like the bill,” Fine said at the end of the Feb. 21 meeting.

The LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida described the speakers at the committee as a “sham panel.” It also accused DeSantis of using the issue “in his quest to build a right wing presidential resume.”

“This one-sided discussion, which relied on fringe speakers from social media and from outside of Florida and the U.S., does not change the broad scientific consensus from our nation’s leading medical associations — that gender-affirming care improves health outcomes and saves lives,” Nikole Parker, Equality Florida director of transgender equality, said in a statement after the meeting.

DeSantis, who is widely seen as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has elevated the issue of treatment for transgender youths. As an example, he has referred to surgeries on transgender minors as “genital mutilation,” though experts have said the surgeries are exceptionally rare.

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In addition to the medical boards moving to prevent doctors from providing treatments to transgender youths, the state Agency for Health Care Administration last year approved a rule prohibiting Medicaid reimbursements for puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for transgender youths and adults. The rule is being challenged in federal court.

Fine’s bill also would place additional restrictions on treatments — described in the measure as “gender clinical interventions” — for transgender adults. In part, it would require obtaining “informed written consent from the patient each time the physician provides gender clinical interventions for an adult.”

By Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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