A new investigation into insurance claims reveals new insights into the surprising number of children in the United States who have sought and received transgender-related medical procedures.
Reuters published a report on Thursday that used data that was analyzed by health technology company Komodo Health Inc. This data identified the number of children who received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, puberty blocking drugs, cross sex hormones and surgeries in recent years.
Komodo Health Inc. analyzed its database of U.S. insurance claims and other medical records on about 330 million Americans. The first of its kind analysis found that at least 121,882 children ages 6 to 17 were diagnosed with gender dysphoria from 2017 to 2021.
In 2021, Reuters reported that approximately 42,000 children and teens across the United States were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, almost three times the number in 2017 and up 70% from 2020.
Over the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, the number of children with a gender dysphoria diagnosis who started on puberty blockers or hormones totaled 17,683, rising from 2,394 in 2017 to 5,063 in 2021. Of these patients 4,780 had initiated puberty blockers and 14,726 had initiated hormone treatment.
“These numbers are probably a significant undercount since they don’t include children whose records did not specify a gender dysphoria diagnosis or whose treatment wasn’t covered by insurance,” Reuters said.
Komodo’s data analysis of insurance claims also notes that from 2019 to 2021 at least 776 mastectomies were performed on teen girls with a gender dysphoria diagnosis ages 13 to 17 in the United States. “This tally does not include procedures that were paid for out of pocket,” said Reuters.
The Komodo analysis of insurance claims additionally found 56 genital surgeries occurred among patients with a prior gender dysphoria diagnosis ages 13 to 17 from 2019 to 2021.
In addition, Reuters released an article on Thursday to provide more context to these numbers, which includes some of the permanent effects of and the lack of evidence supporting the use of these treatments.
“Some changes from hormone treatment are permanent,” said Reuters. “Hormone treatment may leave an adolescent infertile, especially if the child also took puberty blockers at an early age,” said Reuters, adding that experts say other potential side effects are not well-studied.
Reuters also noted that children who begin taking puberty blockers during the first signs of puberty and later go on to take cross-sex hormones, will be unable to achieve orgasm. Puberty blockers “stunt development of the male genitalia,” Reuters added.
“Complications from genital surgeries are common,” reports Reuters, citing a California study that found a quarter of 869 vaginoplasty patients, with a mean age of 39, had a surgical complication so severe that they had to be hospitalized again. “Among those patients, 44% needed additional surgery to address the complication, which included bleeding and bowel injuries,” said Reuters.
Reuters explains that their analysis “draws on full or partial health insurance claims for about 330 million U.S. patients over the five years from 2017 to 2021, including patients covered by private health plans and public insurance like Medicaid.” Over half of all U.S. states pay for gender-transition treatment through Medicaid.
“The data include roughly 40 million patients annually, ages 6 through 17, and comprise health insurance claims that document diagnoses and procedures administered by U.S. clinicians and facilities,” Reuters said. Data on puberty blockers excluded their on-label use to treat precocious puberty.
“While the number of gender clinics treating children in the United States has grown from zero to more than 100 in the past 15 years — and waiting lists are long — strong evidence of the efficacy and possible long-term consequences of that treatment remains scant,” Reuters reports.
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