Transgender individuals will now be able to have their sex-change operations covered by Medicare.
A Health and Human Services Department review board said Friday that coverage for sex-reassignment surgery can no longer be automatically denied by the federal health program, according to the Associated Press.
The ruling lifts a 30-year ban on coverage for the surgery, acknowledging the procedure as medically necessary for some individuals who don't identify with the gender they were given at birth.
The announcement does not mean that Medicare recipients will necessarily be entitled to coverage for the operation. They will need to submit doctor's statements saying it is "medically indicated" in their case.
The decision does not affect Medicaid—which is state-regulated—or private insurers, but transgender-rights advocates hope that the ruling may prod them to follow suit.
It is unknown how many people fall into the cross-section that will be affected by Friday's ruling. About 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population identifies as transgender, according to a study from the UCLA Law School. More than 49 million individuals are currently enrolled in Medicare coverage.
This isn't the first time this year that the federal health program expanded coverage for LGBT beneficiaries. HHS announced in April that eligible individuals in same-sex marriages can apply for Medicare benefits.
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