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No more mister or missus at Medicare

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Patients will no longer have to identify themselves as male or female when making a claim through Medicare, under changes announced by the Federal Government.

Moving to end what it said was gender discrimination in the universal health system, the Government has ordered that all references to males or females in the description of 6000 medical procedures and clinical services be removed from the Medicare system.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Human Services Minister Jan McLucas said the identification of gender was particularly problematic for some members of the community, and the changes would bring Medicare into line with the Government’s recently released Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender.

“At the moment, there are some Medicare services described as being for a man or a woman,” the ministers said. “This has caused discrimination against gender diverse Australians who have had to have unnecessary discussions about their gender identity in order to get access to a Medicare service, or to claim a rebate.”

Ms Plibersek and Ms McLucas cited as an example the fact that Medicare descriptions for some procedures involving the uterus were couched in terms of the ‘female’ or ‘woman’, whereas there were some people who had a uterus but considered their gender to be male.

The ministers said all references to gender would be removed from Medicare, though they admitted that achieving this would not always be straightforward.

“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,” Ms Plibersek said. “These changes will make a big difference to intersex Australians, who may not wish to identify as any gender.”

To fully implement the reform, changes will also be made to Medicare claims and processing functions.

The Government said the changes were being made in consultation with members of the intersex and gender diverse communities, as well as medical experts.

Adrian Rollins