Idaho Eyes Prohibiting Public Funds for Gender-Care Services

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TL/DR –

Idaho lawmakers are set to vote on a bill seeking to prohibit the use of public funds for gender-affirming care, including its use by state employees and adults registered with Medicaid. If approved, Idaho will join at least nine other states with similar bans, potentially leading to an expected lawsuit in federal court due to previous failed attempts in the state to refuse gender-affirming care to transgender residents. Critics of the bill argue that it violates both the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and the federal Medicaid Act.


Idaho Lawmakers Set to Vote on Bill Banning Public Funds for Gender-Affirming Care

Idaho lawmakers are planning a vote this week on a controversial bill that seeks to prohibit the use of public funds for gender-affirming care. This includes funds intended for state employees’ health insurance and adults covered by Medicaid.

The bill, already approved by the House, is expected to pass the largely Republican Senate before heading to Gov. Brad Little, a Republican who has previously expressed opposition to the use of public funds for gender-affirming care.

If enacted, Idaho would join at least nine other states in banning Medicaid funding for gender-affirming care for all ages, according to the Movement Advancement Project. These laws form part of the ongoing national debate over LGBTQ+ rights in America.

Critics argue that the Idaho bill will likely lead to a federal court lawsuit. Previous attempts to deny gender-affirming care to transgender residents have seen the state face multiple lawsuits, with limited success in defense.

In a notable case, Idaho was instructed to provide a transgender inmate with gender-transition surgery, leading to approximately $2.5 million in legal fees for the inmate. A separate lawsuit filed by adults denied Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming treatment in 2022 led to a federal judge rejecting the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

Boise attorney Howard Belodoff, representing the transgender adults in the Medicaid lawsuit, argues that the bill violates the 14th Amendment equal protections clause and the federal Medicaid Act.

Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, one of the bill’s sponsors, contends that the bill is a “taxpayer protection” measure and without it, the state could end up bearing millions in gender-affirming care costs. Approximately 70% of Idaho’s Medicaid program is federally funded.

Those testifying against the bill suggest it could unintentionally impact privately insured residents in rural areas reliant on state-funded medical centers. They also warned of potential criminal penalties for state employees taking legally prescribed medications while on duty due to the bill’s broad prohibition on state property use for medical interventions.

Violating the proposed law could lead to fines ranging from $300 to $10,000 and imprisonment between one and 14 years.

Major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose gender-affirming care bans. While courts have blocked the enforcement of such bans for minors in Idaho, Montana, and Arkansas, they have been allowed in Alabama and Georgia.


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