Spending and Out-of-Pocket Costs for Genital Gender-Affirming Surgery in the US

Jae Downing, Sarah K. Holt, Michael Cunetta, John L. Gore, Geolani W. Dy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Importance: Genital gender-affirming surgery (GAS) is safe and offers substantial benefits to patients. Geographic accessibility and high out-of-pocket (OOP) costs reportedly hinder access; however, to date, this has not been thoroughly investigated at the national level. Objective: To estimate OOP and total costs for GAS among commercially insured beneficiaries and assess whether costs differed between surgical procedures conducted in and outside the patient's state of residence. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study used previously collected insurance data from the MarketScan Commercial Database (129 million patients) from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2019. Vaginoplasties and phalloplasties were identified using diagnosis and procedure codes among patients aged 18 to 64 years. Out-of-state surgical procedures were identified based on residence at enrollment and place of service of the surgery. Data analysis took place from July 1 to September 31, 2021. Exposures: Vaginoplasty and phalloplasty. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcomes were differences in OOP and total costs by out-of-state designation, census region, age, and insurance type for surgical procedures, estimated using multivariable linear regression models. Results: The study included 771 patients who underwent GAS. A total of 609 underwent vaginoplasty, of whom 249 (41%) underwent surgery in their state of residence (mean [SD] age, 38.7 [13.1] years) and 340 (56%) underwent surgery outside their state (mean [SD] age, 38.1 [13.0] years), and 162 underwent phalloplasty, of whom 66 (41%) underwent surgery in their state of residence (mean [SD] age, of 39.7 [11.6] years) and 81 (50%) underwent surgery outside their state (mean [SD] age, 35.8 [10.9] years); 20 vaginoplasties (3%) and 15 phalloplasties (9%) could not be classified as in or out of state owing to missing data about the facility or residence. Procedures outside the state were associated with 49% (95% CI, 19%-85%) higher OOP costs compared with procedures done in the state of residence. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study, 56% of patients who underwent vaginoplasty and 50% of patients who underwent phalloplasty underwent the procedure outside their state of residence. Patients who underwent these procedures outside their state also experienced higher OOP costs than did those who underwent these procedures in their state. Improving geographic access and understanding patient preferences for surgical care may help reduce the cost burden for those planning to undergo GAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJAMA Surgery
StatePublished - Sep 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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