We often criticise governments when they don’t do things well, but this week it’s a pleasure to say Kudos to Australia’s Health Minister Tanya Plibersek for making accessing medical care less confronting, and for making medical care for the person as a whole and not just their gender.
A week ago, Minister Plibersek announced that all gender references will be completely removed from Australia’s national healthcare plan, Medicare.
As it stands, some Medicare services are only available to men or women, which force some people to have uncomfortable or embarrassing discussions about their gender identity in order to access a service or claim a rebate for one at a Medicare office.
“Proud to be removing gender discrimination from Medicare – esp important for transgender and intersex Australians.” Tanya Plibersek tweet
In her announcement, the Minister said, “If you need a medical treatment under Medicare you should be able to get it without a discussion about or disclosure of your gender – male, female, transgender, or otherwise.
“That’s why the Government’s removing all references to gender from the language used to describe the almost 6,000 clinical services covered by Medicare. At the moment, there are some Medicare services described as being for a man or a woman. This has caused discrimination against gender diverse Australians.
“For example, someone who has a uterus may actually identify their gender as male. Under current arrangements, some Medicare-covered medical procedures involving the uterus are described as ‘female’ or for ‘women’.”
These changes will also make a big difference to intersex Australians, who may not wish to identify as any gender.
The Minister said, “We are able to remove references to gender in Medicare by doing things like describing a medical procedure in more detail, or using anatomical language instead. These changes bring Medicare into line with the Government’s new Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender.”
The changes come after consultation with the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Health Alliance and the Organisation Intersex International Australia. Of 6000 services covered by Medicare, 43 needed to be changed. Of these, 15 were changed earlier this month, while changes to the remaining services will be made by the end of the year.