Congratulations to the Ontario government for its decision to provide health care funding for people who require sexual reassignment surgery. For the handful of Ontarians facing this costly procedure, the treatment is both medically necessary and – for most – financially impossible. And a big thank you to the courageous individuals (including Martine Stonehouse and Susan Gapka) who helped lead this campaign for health justice.
Health policy experts believe that the decision of a previous Ontario government a decade ago to de-list sexual reassignment surgery was almost certainly trans-phobic (that is, motivated by a fear and prejudice against transgendered people). Some of the critics of the decision to re-list it as a medically-insurable procedure will no doubt also be motived by trans-phobia.
The current government took a number of years to make the decision, but almost certainly not because of trans-phobia. Instead, the Ontario government is likely infected with cost-phobia. That is, the government was afraid that if it did the right thing for people who need SRS, then it would face demands from others who need medical treatments that are excluded from Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage. After all, the government announced the decision on the Friday of a holiday weekend and included a stern warning that people shouldn’t expect that this will set a precedent for re-listing other medically-necessary services that aren’t covered by OHIP.
I have a family member who is a cancer survivor and she is required by her doctor to do an expensive diagnostic procedure every few years just to check whether the cancer is still lurking in her body. The procedure is expensive and most of the costs aren’t covered by OHIP. Fortunately, our family has private health coverage, but those who don’t have only one option: Wait and hope that the cancer is truly in remission. If it isn’t, cancer survivors have to wait until the re-emerging cancer is serious enough that it qualifies for coverage under OHIP.
So, good for the Ontario government for taking the right step and re-listing sexual reassignment sugery. Now, let’s look at all those other medically necessary procedures that were removed from OHIP, or never covered in the first place…