Headline ‘irrational’ on Oregon transgender coverage

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) —  “Oregon allowing 15-year-olds to get state-subsidized sex-change operations”That FOX News headline stirred up passionate arguments when it was posted earlier Thursday. The transgender-related coverage is nothing new since it was decided last year and took effect in January.

But Jenn Burleton, the executive director of TransActive Gender Center in Portland, said the idea a 15-year-old can walk into a doctor’s office, say they want gender affirmation surgery and get it done without a parent’s consent is unrealistic.

“It’s irrational,” she told KOIN 6 News. “It’s laughable.”

But the FOX News report and a press release by Parents Rights in Education raised the concern about why the Oregon Health Authoriry did this and who is pushing this idea.

Jenn Burleton with TransActive Gender Center in Portland, July 9, 2015. (KOIN)

“The age of consent in Oregon has been 15 since 1971,” Burleton said. “It would be a separate but equal implementation of it to say for all other physician- recommended or evidence-based medical care, youth in Oregon can access that at age 15 but for this one they have to wait longer.”

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, the Oregon Health Authority said:

“In Oregon, the age of medical consent is 15 or older. Patients should be able to demonstrate the capacity to make a fully informed decision and to give consent to treatment, regardless of age.  However, nothing in Oregon law requires a health care provider to provide medical services to a minor or safeguard the confidentiality of a minor. In most cases, providers will encourage (and in some cases require) family engagement and supports unless it would endanger the patient.”

There are also a long list of guidelines that must be met before anyone gets insurance coverage for cross-sex hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery.

Psychotherapy and medical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria listed as 413 out of 476 in a list of prioritized health services the Oregon Health Plan will cover.

That is coverage Burleton said she worked hard to secure during testimony to the Health Evidence Review Commission in 2014.

Her testimony, she said, “showed that this care was, indeed, life saving, was medically necessary, it was evidence-based care.”

So — Oregon Medicaid began covering transgender related healthcare in January. For years, the age of medical consent in Oregon has been 15. Combine the 2 and you have the issue some are voicing concerns over, even if it was not an intended outcome of the January change.

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