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Australia to end gender discrimination in public health scheme

Australia to end gender discrimination in public health scheme

Australia’s Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek and Minister for Human Services, Jan McLucas announced Wednesday that all gender discrimination will be removed from the country’s Medicare national public health scheme.

‘If you need a medical treatment under Medicare you should be able to get it without a discussion about or disclosure of your gender – male, female, transgender, or otherwise,’ Plibersek said.

‘That’s why the Government’s removing all references to gender from the language used to describe the almost 6,000 clinical services covered by Medicare. At the moment, there are some Medicare services described as being for a man or a woman.

‘This has caused discrimination against gender diverse Australians who have had to have unnecessary discussions about their gender identity in order to get access to a Medicare service, or to claim a rebate for one at a Medicare office.

‘For example, someone who has a uterus may actually identify their gender as male. Under current arrangements, some Medicare covered medical procedures involving the uterus are described as “female” or for “women.”’

The Australian Government’s changes will remove these gender references from procedures.

‘These changes will also make a big difference to intersex Australians, who may not wish to identify as any gender,’ Plibersek said, ‘We are able to remove references to gender in Medicare by doing things like describing a medical procedure in more detail, or using anatomical language instead.’

‘These changes bring Medicare into line with the Government’s new Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender. The changes come after consultation with the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Health Alliance and the Organization Intersex International Australia.’

To fully implement the Government’s reforms, changes will also need to be made to the claims and processing side of Medicare, which McLucus said would require the cooperation of different Ministries.

‘The Department of Human Services and the Department of Health and Aging have been working together to ensure all our systems and procedures are updated to reflect the changes,’ Senator McLucas said.

‘This will mean people will no longer have to discuss their gender when making a claim through Medicare, including at a Medicare office.’

Some gender discriminatory language has already been removed from Medicare and the remaining changes are going through the final stages of consultation with the intersex and gender diverse communities, and medical experts.

The move was welcomed by Organization Intersex International (OII) Australia.

‘For intersex people, the fact that our bodies do not conform to sex norms means that the healthcare issues we face sometimes do not conform to the way medical services and procedures have been defined and made available by Medicare,’ OII Australia’s Morgan Carpenter said.

‘For example, a woman with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS) will have XY sex chromosomes and testes, but her body will develop from conception mostly along typically female lines. A man with 46,XX CAH may have a uterus and ovaries. A 46,XY or 47,XXY man may have breasts.

‘Up until now, intersex people have sometimes experienced difficulty in obtaining medical services that effectively meet the needs of our bodies. This new development is crucially important because it means that medical procedures can reflect our actual needs, rather than those that are presumed by our legal gender. It removes anxiety and will lead to better health outcomes.

‘This development also, of course, benefits trans people whose bodies may differ from their legal gender due to medical treatment.’