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Idaho legislature passes bill banning public funds for gender affirming health care

The Idaho Legislature approved a bill Friday, banning public funds to pay for gender affirming health care.

It said people seeking gender affirming care can’t use Medicaid or private insurance for state employees to cover the expenses. Additionally, government health care providers, facilities and buildings would be barred from administering or being utilized for gender-affirming care.

The Idaho Senate passed the measure 26-8, and it's already cleared the House.

“We have seen how this swiftly growing, multibillion-dollar industry has been so quick to push hormone treatments on our children, severely misrepresent side effects and make weakly-evidenced claims about suicide rates," said Sen. Ben Toews (R-Coeur d'Alene), a co-sponsor of the bill, which applies to both children and adults.

Sen. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) opposed the bill. She said major medical organizations support the use of these treatments, such as hormone therapy. Medical studies have shown they reduce risk of suicide, especially among young people.

The legislation provides exemptions for scenarios when drugs or procedures are medically “necessary.” But Wintrow said this amounts to discrimination.

“It doesn't say we're going to take away my estradiol for hormone therapy for menopause," she said. "But it says we're not going to let you use it in a certain class of people. That population can't use it. That's discrimination."

Wintrow said that means the legislation is likely to be tied up in costly litigation. Late last year, a federal judge temporarily blocked Idaho's ban on gender affirming care for youth from going into effect.

The bill banning public funds for gender affirming care now heads to the desk of Gov. Brad Little, who has said state Medicaid should not pay for such care.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on X @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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