May 19, 2024

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KFF Health News

Hal Dempsey wanted to “escape Missouri.” Arlo Dennis is “fleeing Florida.” The Tillison family “can’t stay in Texas.”

They are part of a new migration of Americans who are uprooting their lives in response to a raft of legislation across the country restricting health care for transgender people.

Missouri, Florida, and Texas are among at least 20 states that have limited components of gender-affirming health care for trans youth. Those three states are also among the states that prevent Medicaid — the public health insurance for people with low incomes — from paying for key aspects of such care for patients of all ages.

More than a quarter of trans adults surveyed by KFF and The Washington Post late last year said they had moved to a different neighborhood, city, or state to find more acceptance. Now, new restrictions on health care and the possibility of more in the future provide additional motivation.

Many are heading to places that are passing laws to support care for trans people, making those states appealing sanctuaries. California, for example, passed a law last fall to protect those receiving or providing gender-affirming care from prosecution. And now, California providers are getting more calls from people seeking to relocate there to prevent disruptions to their care, said Scott Nass, a family physician and expert on transgender care based in the state.

But the influx of patients presents a challenge, Nass said, “because the system that exists, it can’t handle all the refugees that potentially are out there.”

In Florida, the legislative targeting of trans people and their health care has persuaded Arlo Dennis, 35, that it is time to uproot their family of five from the Orlando area, where they’ve lived for more than a decade. They plan to move to Maryland.

Dennis, who uses they/them pronouns, no longer has access to hormone replacement therapy after Florida’s Medicaid program stopped covering transition-related care in late August under the claim that the treatments are experimental and lack evidence of being effective. Dennis said they ran out of their medication in January.

“It’s definitely led to my mental health having struggles and my physical health having struggles,” Dennis said.

Hal Dempsey, who uses they/them pronouns, raised about $3,000 on GoFundMe to

Moving to Maryland will take resources Dennis said their family does not have. They launched a GoFundMe campaign in April and have raised more than $5,600, most of it from strangers, Dennis said. Now the family, which includes three adults and two children, plans to leave Florida in July. The decision wasn’t easy, Dennis said, but they felt like they had no choice.

“I’m OK if my neighbor doesn’t agree with how I’m living my life,” Dennis said. “But this was literally outlawing my existence and making my access to health care impossible.”

Mitch and Tiffany Tillison decided they needed to leave Texas after the state’s Republicans made anti-trans policies for youth central to their legislative agenda. Their 12-year-old came out as trans about two years ago. They asked for only her middle name,

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