Clinical Policy Bulletin:
Gender Reassignment Surgery
Note: Most Aetna plans exclude coverage of sex change surgery (gender reassignment surgery, transgender surgery) or any treatment of gender identity disorders. Please check benefit plan descriptions.
Aetna considers sex reassignment surgery medically necessary when all of the following criteria are met:
* At least one of the two clinical behavioral scientists making the favorable recommendation for surgical (genital) sex reassignment must possess a doctoral degree (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D., D.Sc., D.S.W., Psy.D., or M.D.). Note: Evaluation of candidacy for sex reassignment surgery by a mental health professional is covered under the member’s medical benefit, unless the services of a mental health professional are necessary to evaluate and treat a mental health problem, in which case the mental health professional’s services are covered under the member’s behavioral health benefit. Please check benefit plan descriptions.
** Either two separate letters or one letter with two signatures is acceptable.
Medically necessary core surgical procedures for female to male persons include: mastectomy, hysterectomy, vaginectomy, salpingo-oophorectomy, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty, urethroplasty, scrotoplasty and placement of testicular prostheses, and erectile prostheses.
Medically necessary core surgical procedures for male to female persons include: penectomy, orchidectomy, vaginoplasty, clitoroplasty, and labiaplasty.
Note: Rhinoplasty, face-lifting, lip enhancement, facial bone reduction, blepharoplasty, breast augmentation, liposuction of the waist (body contouring), reduction thyroid chondroplasty, hair removal, voice modification surgery (laryngoplasty or shortening of the vocal cords), and skin resurfacing, which have been used in feminization, are considered cosmetic. Similarly, chin implants, nose implants, and lip reduction, which have been used to assist masculinization, are considered cosmetic.
Note on gender specific services for transgender persons:
Gender-specific services may be medically necessary for transgender persons appropriate to their anatomy. Examples include:
Transsexualism is "a gender identity disorder in which the person manifests, with constant and persistent conviction, the desire to live as a member of the opposite sex and progressively take steps to live in the opposite sex role full-time." People who wish to change their sex may be referred to as "Transsexuals" or as people suffering from "Gender Dysphoria" (meaning unhappiness with one's gender).
Transsexuals usually present to the medical profession with a diagnosis of transsexualism, a sophisticated understanding of their condition, and a desired course of treatment, that is, hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery. The therapeutic approach to gender identity disorder consists of three parts: a real life experience in the desired role, hormones of the desired gender, and surgery to change the genitalia and other sex characteristics (Day, 2002). The most typical order, if all three elements are undertaken, is hormones followed by real life experience and, finally, surgery.
For male to female transsexuals selected for surgery, procedures may include genital reconstruction (vaginoplasty, penectomy, orchidectomy, clitoroplasty), breast augmentation and cosmetic surgery (facial reshaping, rhinoplasty, abdominoplasty, laryngeal shaving, vocal cord shortening, hair transplants) (Day, 2002). For female to male transsexuals, surgical procedures may include genital reconstruction (phalloplasty, genitoplasty, hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy), mastectomy, chest wall contouring and cosmetic surgery (Day, 1992).
Due to the far-reaching and irreversible results of hormonal and/or surgical transformational measures, a careful diagnosis and differential diagnosis is absolutely vital to the patient's best interest. In and of themselves, a patient's self-diagnosis and the intensity of his desire for sex reassignment cannot be viewed as reliable indicators of transsexuality. A vital part of the long-term diagnostic therapy is the so-called real-life experience, in which the patient lives as a member of the desired sex continually and in all social spheres in order to accumulate necessary experience. Experience in specialist Gender Identity Units has shown that only about 15% of male transsexuals and 90% of female transsexuals are considered suitable for surgery or still desire it after specialist psychiatric care and a prolonged period of observation used to identify the relatively rare "true" transsexual from the more common "secondary" transsexual.
Hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery are superficial changes in comparison to the major psychological adjustments necessary in changing sex. Treatment should concentrate on the psychological adjustment, with hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery being viewed as confirmatory procedures dependent on adequate psychological adjustment. Psychiatric care may need to be continued for many years after sex-reassignment surgery. The technical success of sex-reassignment surgery is greater for male-to-female transsexuals than female-to-male transsexuals, and continues to improve as new techniques are developed. The overall success of treatment depends partly on the technical success of the surgery, but more crucially on the psychological adjustment of the transsexual, and the support from family, friends, employers and the medical profession.