AMA says ‘no medically valid reason’ for Trump’s ban on transgender troops, disputes financial impact of care

Donald Trump speaks at healthcare lunch
Donald Trump's claim about the cost of trans people serving in the military is incorrect, says the AMA's David O. Barbe. (C-SPAN)

The country’s largest physician group spoke out yesterday against President Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

“There is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service. Transgender individuals are serving their country with honor, and they should be allowed to continue doing so,” David O. Barbe, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement.

Trump announced the ban in a series of tweets Wednesday morning, a decision that drew immediate protest across the country. Trump said he made the decision because the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

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The AMA disagreed with the president’s assessment of the cost of trans individuals who serve in the military. Barbe cited a 2016 RAND Corporation study that looked at the financial impact.

“The financial cost is a rounding error in the defense budget and should not be used as an excuse to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country. We should be honoring their service—not trying to end it,” he said.

That RAND study estimated that there were between 1,320 and 6,630 trans active-duty service members, but said not all would seek gender transition treatment.

It estimated that the cost associated with medical care for gender transition would only increase military healthcare expenditures by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year. That's an increase of between 0.04% and 0.13%, a small piece of the $6 billion total health spending for active military personnel.

By comparison, the military spent $84 million on erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and Cialis in 2014, the Military Times reported.

AMA policy supports public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria as recommended by a patient’s physician, he said.

In Pennsylvania, that state’s top doctor also spoke out against Trump’s ban. Rachel Levine, M.D., acting secretary of health and physician general, who is trans, spoke out on Facebook. "Transgender people are just that: people. Some are bakers; some are teachers; some are soldiers. I am a doctor," she said.