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Out Rep. Demands End to Medicaid Funding for Conversion Therapy

Out Congressman to Stop Medicaid Coverage For Conversion Therapy

Selling so-called conversion therapy services to minors remains legal in most U.S. states, but new legislation threatens any federal funding going to the practice.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, co-chair of the growing Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, filed legislation last month to crack down on any use of Medicaid funds for "conversion therapy."

“Conversion practices are discredited, harmful and not therapy,” Maloney said. “Fundamentally, conversion tactics are based on the idea that a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation are diseases to be cured.”

Maloney, the first out congressman elected in New York, said questionable billing techniques actually get the government to foot the bill on such debunked and hurtful services.

“Until we can just ban conversion ‘therapy’ all together, we must ensure taxpayer dollars aren’t funding a fraudulent practice that has been roundly discredited by the medical community. That’s exactly what my bill would do,” Maloney said.

The problem is that while Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income Americans, gets funded by federal taxpayer dollars, states largely decide how money gets spent. Since the bulk of state legislatures have no problem letting “therapists” sell counseling to suppress gay, bi, and trans identity, illegitimate practices like “reparative” therapy get covered by public funds in many places. Typically, the services get filed as “mental and behavioral health services.”

Maloney’s bill would establish a definition for what constitutes therapy and put federal parameters in place that disallow any federal dollars being funneled toward the questionable practice, while still ensuring Medicaid can support legitimate services provided to LGBTQ patients.

His bill out of the gate enjoyed 63 co-sponsors. The list includes other out representatives like Mark Takano, David Cicilline, Mark Pocan, Angie Craig, and Chris Pappas. With a new Democratic majority, the bill could be bound for passage.

Advocates for LGBTQ youth say it’s critical for the federal government to defund “conversion therapy.” The Trevor Project, which is pushing for bans on the practice in every state, applauded the legislation.

"The Trevor Project hears from youth harmed by the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy every week. By limiting the means by which licensed mental health professionals can be reimbursed for their horrific practice, the Prohibition of Medicaid Funding for Conversion Therapy Act will make clear that conversion therapy is far outside the mainstream," Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, said in a statement. 

Education professionals also rallied around the bill. Marc Negan, spokesperson for the National Education Association, praised Maloney’s legislation.

“Many organizations, including the American College of Physicians, have discredited any programs that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. “These dangerous practices damage physical, mental, and emotional well-being. As educators, NEA members strive to connect with and support all students, which means recognizing their right to be exactly who they are and opposing all practices that deny this right.”

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