Senator Jake Chapman

As the 2019 Iowa Legislature winds down, Republicans in the Iowa Senate are responding to a recent court ruling forcing the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender reassignment surgery.

The Senate GOP is adding language in a budget bill to amend the Iowa Civil Rights Act and block all public funds from covering sex re-assignment surgeries. Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said he’s heard from a lot of Iowans about this issue.

“They feel like this is an elective decision, If Iowans want to do that, that’s fine, but not with our taxpayer dollars,” Chapman said.

Chapman said sex reassignment surgery is expensive and the state’s tax dollars should be reserved for other health care priorities.

“The other issue that’s really not talked about is it’s easy for people to come onto Iowa’s Medicaid program and so if we’ve opened this up through the court system, Iowa will become a hot bed for others who want this surgery paid for and will come into Iowa and have this operation done,” Chapman said. “Fundamentally, I think a lot of people have no problem if you want to have that operation done, great — just not with taxpayer money.”

Keenan Crow, a lobbyist for One Iowa — an LGBTQ advocacy group, said legislators are treating transgender Iowans as second-class citizens.

“What they’re saying is these folks are not going to get the medically necessary care that their doctors have said they need, not because it’s not medically necessary, but because they are a certain way,” he said. “They’ve excluded a specific class of folks.”

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said Republicans are attacking the medical and emotional health of transgender individuals.

“It’s ignorant. It’s discrimination of the worst kind…We don’t ask when someone has cancer: ‘Geez, what’s that going to cost? Well, that’s too much,'” Bolkcom said. “…This is a matter of life and death for people.”

According to Bolkcom, the suicide rate among transgender Iowans is 10 times that of the general population.

The Senate is debating this issue at this hour. The proposal is included in a budget bill. The bill must also be debated and passed by the House before it could go to the governor for her review.