SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, Nov. 24, 2015
FRIDAY, Dec. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for transgender men and women is cost-effective, a new study indicates.
"Providing health care benefits to transgender people makes economic sense," study leader William Padula, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a university news release.
Most U.S. health plans don't pay for these treatments, but this Johns Hopkins-led investigation found that surgery and hormone treatment doesn't cost much more than treatment for depression, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.
These health problems are common among transgender people who can't undergo medical transition, according to the authors of the study published online recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
In the first five years, the cost of sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment is between $34,000 and $43,000 per year of quality of life. After 10 years, the cost drops to between $7,000 and $10,000 per year of quality of life, the researchers said.
The researchers noted that policymakers consider something cost-effective if the price is below $100,000 per year of quality of life.
"Many insurance companies have said that it's not worth it to pay for these services for transgender people. Our study shows they don't have an economic leg to stand on when they decide to deny coverage. This is a small population of people, and we can do them a great service without a huge financial impact on society," Padula said.
After a 33-year ban, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services begin in 2014 to pay for sex reassignment surgery and other gender transition care, the researchers said.
An estimated 3,000 to 9,000 Americans undergo sex reassignment surgery each year, according to the researchers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers health information for transgender people.