Coverage for gender reassignment surgery (GRS) is determined according to individual or group customer benefits. When a covered benefit for gender reassignment surgery (55970, 55980) exists, it is considered medically necessary when all of the following criteria are met:
- The individual is at least 18 years of age.
- The individual has been diagnosed with the Gender Identity Disorder (GID) of transsexualism, including all of the following:
- The desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex through surgery and hormone treatment; and
- The individual's transsexual identity has been present persistently for at least two years; and
- The disorder is not a symptom of another mental disorder or a chromosomal abnormality; and
- The disorder causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The individual is an active participant in a recognized gender identity treatment program and demonstrates all of the following conditions:
- The individual has successfully lived and worked within the desired gender role full-time for at least 12 months (real life experience) without returning to the original gender
- Initiation of hormonal therapy or breast surgery recommended by a qualified health professional with written documentation submitted to the physician responsible for the medical treatment
- Documentation of at least 12 months of continuous hormonal sex reassignment therapy, unless medically contraindicated (May be simultaneous with real life experience.)
- Recommendation for sex reassignment surgery by two qualified mental health professionals recommend sex reassignment surgery with written documentation submitted to the physician performing the genital surgery (At least one letter should be a comprehensive report. Two separate letters or one letter with two signatures is acceptable. One letter from a Master’s degree mental health professional is acceptable if the second letter is from a psychiatrist or Ph.D. clinical psychologist.)
- Separate evaluation by the physician performing the genital surgery
Surgical Treatment for Gender Reassignment
When a covered benefit for gender reassignment surgery exists and all of the above criteria are met, the following genital surgeries are medically necessary for transwomen (male to female):
- Orchiectomy (54520, 54690)
- Penectomy (54125)
- Vaginoplasty (57335)
- Colovaginoplasty (57291-57292)
- Clitoroplasty (56805)
- Labiaplasty (58999)
When a covered benefit for gender reassignment surgery exists and all of the above criteria are met, the following breast and genital surgeries are medically necessary for transmen (female to male):
- Breast reconstruction (eg, mastectomy [19303-19304], reduction mammoplasty )
- Hysterectomy (58150, 58262, 58291, 58552, 58554, 58571, 58573)
- Salpingo-oophorectomy (58661)
- Colpectomy/Vaginectomy (57110)
- Metoidioplasty (55899)
- Phalloplasty (55899)
- Urethroplasty (53430)
- Scrotoplasty (55175, 55180)
- Testicular prostheses implantation (54660)
The following procedures are considered cosmetic services and generally non-covered, when used to improve the gender specific appearance of an individual who has undergone or is planning to undergo gender reassignment surgery (this list may not be all-inclusive):
- Liposuction (15876-15879)
- Removal of redundant skin (15830, 15832-15839)
- Rhinoplasty (30400, 30410, 30420, 30430, 30435, 30450)
- Breast augmentation (19324-19325)
- Nipple/areola reconstruction (19350)
- Mastopexy (19316)
- Rhytidectomy (15824-15826, 15828-15829)
- Blepharoptosis (67900-67906)
- Blepharoplasty (15820-15823)
- Hair removal – electrolysis (17380) or laser hair removal (17999)
- Hair transplantation (15775- 15776)
- Facial feminizing (eg, facial bone reduction) (21209)
- Chin augmentation (21120-21123, 21125, 21127)
- Lip reduction/enhancement (40799)
- Cricothyroid approximation (21899)
- Trachea shave/reduction thyroid chondroplasty (31899)
- Laryngoplasty (31599)
- Collagen injections (11950-11952, 11954)
See Medical Policy Bulletin S-28 for general information on cosmetic surgery vs. reconstructive surgery.
Gender-specific services may be medically necessary for transgender persons appropriate to their anatomy. Examples include:
- Breast cancer screening may be medically necessary for female to male transgender persons who have not undergone a mastectomy;
- Prostate cancer screening may be medically necessary for male to female transgender individuals who have retained their prostate.
Services not meeting the medical necessity guidelines on this policy will be denied as not medically necessary. A participating, preferred or network provider cannot bill the member for the denied service unless the provider has given advance written notice, informing the member that the service may be deemed not medically necessary and providing an estimate of the cost. The member must agree in writing to assume financial responsibility, in advance of receiving the service. The signed agreement should be maintained in the provider’s records.
This policy is designed to address medical guidelines that are appropriate for the majority of individuals with a particular disease, illness, or condition. Each person's unique clinical circumstances may warrant individual consideration, based on review of applicable medical records.
Gender Identity Disorder
Gender identity disorder (GID), also known as transsexualism, is a condition characterized by strong and persistent cross-gender identification accompanied by persistent gender dysphoria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition, Text Revision [DSM-IV-TR,2000]). Individuals with GID experience confusion in their biological gender during their childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. These individuals demonstrate clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. GID is characterized by the desire to have the anatomy of the other sex, and the desire to be regarded by others as a member of the other sex. Individuals with GID may develop social isolation, emotional distress, poor self-image, depression, and anxiety. The diagnosis of GID is not made if the individual has a congruent physical intersex condition such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
Gender Reassignment Surgery
GID cannot be treated by re-education or solely through medical intervention. There are therapeutic approaches to treat this disorder, including psychological interventions and sexual reassignment therapy (SRT). SRT, either as male-to-female transsexuals (transwomen) or as female-to-male transsexuals (transmen), consists of medical and surgical treatment that changes primary or secondary sex characteristics. Initially, the individual may go through the real-life experience in the desired role, followed by hormonal therapy and surgery to change the genitalia and other sex characteristics. The difference between hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery (GRS) is that the surgery is considered an irreversible physical intervention.
Transmen assume male gender identities or strive to present in more male gender roles. Gender reassignment surgery from female to male (FTM) includes surgical procedures that reshape a female body into the appearance of a male body. According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care (WPATH SOC) guidelines, procedures often performed as part of gender reassignment surgery of FTM include mastectomy, hysterectomy, salpingo-oophorectomy, colpectomy (i.e., removal of the vagina, vaginectomy) and metoidioplasty (i.e., clitoral tissue is released and moved forward to approximate the position of a penis, skin from the labia minora is used to create a penis), urethroplasty, scrotoplasty and placement of testicular prosthesis ( i.e., the labia majora is dissected forming cavities allowing for placement of testicular implants) and phalloplasty (i.e., skin tissue graft is used to form a penis). The objectives of phalloplasty may include standing micturation, improved sexual sensation and function and/or appearance.
Transwomen strive for a female identity. Gender reassignment surgery from male to female (MTF) includes procedures that shape a male body into the appearance of and, to the maximum extent possible, the function of a female body. Procedures often performed as part of gender reassignment surgery of MTF according to WPATH SOC include orchiectomy, vaginoplasty, penectomy, and labiaplasty. Surgical techniques vary but may include penile inversion to create a vagina and clitoris or creation of a vagina from the sigmoid colon (i.e., colovaginoplasty). The objectives of vaginoplasty include improved sexual sensation and function and appearance. Breast augmentation may be considered when 18 months of hormone treatment fails to result in breast enlargement that is sufficient for the individual’s comfort in the female gender role.
In order to avoid difficulties with social integration and personal safety issues, it is important to change the individual's legal name and gender on identity documents prior to the surgical process.
Cosmetic services are provided to improve an individual's physical appearance, from which no significant improvement in physiologic function can be expected. Emotional and/or psychological improvements alone do not constitute improvement in physiologic function. An individual's sexual satisfaction after the surgery can vary depending on the success of the surgical reassignment technique and on the psychological stability of the individual.
Hormonal interventions and surgical procedures are not without risk for complications; therefore, individuals should undergo an extensive evaluation to explore psychological, family, and social issues prior to and post surgery. Readiness criteria for GRS includes the individual demonstrating progress in consolidating gender identity, and demonstrating progress in dealing with work, family, and interpersonal issues resulting in an improved state of mental health. In order to check the eligibility and readiness criteria for GRS, it is important for the individual to discuss the matter with a professional provider who is well-versed in the relevant medical and psychological aspects of GID. The mental health and medical professional providers responsible for the individual's treatment should work together in making a decision about the use of hormones during the months before the GRS. Transsexual individuals should regularly participate in psychotherapy in order to have smooth transitions and adjustments to the new social and physical outcomes.