BY PRANJALI SEHGAL
The Department of Health & Human Services has found surgeries and PBS subsidised medications are often ‘gendered’, making treatment expensive for trans and gender-diverse people wanting access to medical interventions.
Gender confirmation surgery in Australia costs upwards of $30,000, depending on the procedure, and is ordinarily the last step in the physical transition process following numerous costly GP visits and psychological counselling.
“It's always the case if you start transitioning and you know you want surgery, you realise the burden of that upcoming bill that's always going to loom over you,” she said.
“Medicare doesn’t really cover the surgery itself, which is the biggest cost along with any miscellaneous materials you might need afterwards, such as lubrication or prescription drugs, but luckily it does cover [the] bulk of the procedures required before,” Ms Low said.
Medicare covers treatments like urethroplasty, penis amputation, vaginal reconstruction along with costs of anaesthetics, GP visits and psychological counselling, but most gender affirmation surgeries and augmentation procedures in Australia are conducted under the user-pays private health care system.
Ms Low said some Australian trans people get surgeries done overseas to save money, with Thailand being a popular choice due to the low-costs and several qualified surgeons.
“In Australia, many surgeries are considered as [an] unessential cosmetic elective but in Thailand, they’re considered actual medical necessities and even people from the US and Japan often fly to Thailand to get their surgeries done,” Ms Low said.
The most recent Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey found more than 50 per cent of participants reported feeling excluded from sexual health care due to their gender.
Ms Goldner said surgeries were not carried out in the public system due to some endocrinologists and health professionals maintaining a perspective that trans is "experimental".
“To get through the surgery without the financial impediments means many people could get on with their lives more quickly, get back into society and achieve more,” she said.