Bill Would Bar Sex Reassignment Surgery in Children's Health Plan

Image: Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg
Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg on July 10, 2017.Matt Rourke / AP
/ Source: Associated Press
By Associated Press

The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing legislation to bar coverage for sex reassignment surgery in the federally subsidized Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The Republican-penned bill passed Wednesday, 37-13, over the protests of Democratic lawmakers who called it discriminatory. It now goes to the House for consideration and final amendments.

Senate Republicans say Pennsylvania can’t legally extend such coverage. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration says it expanded the coverage last year to comply with a new Obama administration rule. That rule is on hold in federal court and isn’t being enforced by the Trump administration.

An earlier version of the bill carried a broader ban on transgender services, but Wolf threatened to veto it. Republicans amended it to allow coverage of physician’s services, prescribed drugs or counseling.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national LGBTQ advocacy group, issued a statement slamming the proposed legislation.

“CHIP saves lives and should be beyond the reach of cynical lawmakers looking to score cheap political points,” HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof said in a statement shared with NBC News. “Protecting children and ensuring they have equal access to healthcare is a nonpartisan issue, and we urge the House Rules committee to reject this harmful amendment.”

The CHIP program currently covers 177,000 children in Pennsylvania.

Foluké Tuakli contributed.