Metro Weekly

Republican congresswoman wants to ban health care for transgender military members

Rep. Vicky Hartzler seeks to prohibit military from paying for hormones or gender confirmation surgery

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) – Photo: U.S. House of Representatives.

A Republican congresswoman is trying to prevent the military from using taxpayer dollars to pay for trans service members’ transition-related health care.

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who wants to ban all transgender people from serving in the military, has filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit the military from providing hormones or gender confirmation surgery, or insurance coverage for such treatments, reports The Washington Examiner.

U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) proposed an almost identical amendment, which would have barred the military from providing coverage for gender confirmation surgery or anything else thought to “promote the transgender agenda,” but it was withdrawn.

But Republican fears of transgender health care costs eating up the military budget may be unfounded. New England Journal of Medicine estimated that providing transgender service members with hormone therapy or surgery would cost about $5.6 million each year, which study author Aaron Belkin said would amount to “little more than a rounding error in the military’s $47.8 billion health care budget.”

But Republican fears of transgender health care costs eating up the military budget may be unfounded. A 2015 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that providing hormone therapy or surgery for trans service members would cost about $5.6 million each year, or “little more than a rounding error in the military’s $47.8 billion health care budget,” according to study author Aaron Belkin.

Last month, Hartzler attempted to ban any transgender service members from serving openly. She later withdrew the proposed amendment, but raised concerns about privacy in restroom and shower facilities.

“Is it fair to recruit our sons and daughters to fight for our nation and, instead of being able to focus on the enemy, subjecting them to disturbing distractions of very personal privacy issues involving sleeping and showering with individuals born of the opposite sex?” Hartzler said during a debate in the House Armed Services Committee, on which she serves. “It is not. Military service is a privilege, not a right.”

Under the current policy, which lifted a widespread ban on transgender service members, only those that are already serving are allowed to express themselves according to their gender identity.

The various service branches were expected to have made adequate preparations so they could begin accepting out transgender recruits beginning on July 1. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis imposed a six-month delay after the heads of the various branches said they needed more time to study the issue and see if they would need to provide any special accommodations for transgender service members.

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) has introduced an amendment that would commend all LGBTQ service members, including transgender personnel, for their service to the United States.

If Republicans vote against Schneider’s amendment, or the Rules Committee refuses to allow it to receive a floor vote, Democrats will likely pounce on Republicans for denigrating the service of military members — making it a wedge issue that could be used during the 2018 elections.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com