Highmark Commercial Medical Policy - Delaware

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Medical Policy: S-184-006
Topic: Gender Reassignment Surgery
Section: Surgery
Effective Date: March 5, 2018
Issue Date: March 5, 2018
Last Reviewed: October 2016

Gender reassignment surgery (GRS), either as a male-to-female (MTF) transition or as a female-to-male (FTM) transition, consists of medical and surgical treatments that change primary sex characteristics for individuals with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder who wish to make a permanent transition.

This policy is designed to address medical guidelines that are appropriate for the majority of individuals with a particular disease, illness, or condition. Each person's unique clinical circumstances may warrant individual consideration, based on review of applicable medical records.

Policy Position Coverage is subject to the specific terms of the member’s benefit plan.

Delaware Mandate:

(18 Delaware Code Section 2304(22)): Prohibits discrimination by an insurer on the basis of an individual’s gender identity.  Gender Identity is defined as an individual’s gender appearance, expression or behavior regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.  Delaware Department of Insurance Bulletin 86, effective March 23, 2016, prohibits the denial, exclusion or limitation of coverage for medically necessary services, at determined by a medical provider in consultation with the individual, and based on the individual’s gender identity if the service would be covered for another individual under such contract of insurance.  Coverage exclusions related to  medically necessary surgeries or  treatments related to gender transition or related services for gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder  is a violation of 18 Delaware Code Section 2304. Determinations of medical necessity, eligibility and prior authorization requirements for diagnoses related to an insured’s gender identity must be based on current medical standards established by nationally recognized transgender health medical experts. 

GRS may be considered medically necessary when ALL of the following are met:

  • The individual is greater than or equal to 18 years of age; and
  • The individual has the capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent for treatment; and  
  • The individual has been diagnosed with the gender dysphoria of transsexualism, including ALL of the following:
    • The desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex through surgery and hormone treatment; and
    • The individual's transsexual identity has been present persistently for at least two (2) years; and
    • The disorder is not a symptom of another mental disorder or a chromosomal abnormality; and
    • The disorder causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • The individual is an active participant in a recognized gender identity treatment program and demonstrates ALL of the following conditions:
    • The individual has successfully lived and worked within the desired gender role full-time for at least 12 months (real life experience) without returning to the original gender; and
    • Initiation of hormonal therapy or breast surgery recommended by a qualified health professional with written documentation submitted to the physician responsible for the medical treatment; and
    • Documentation of at least 12 months of continuous hormonal sex reassignment therapy, unless medically contraindicated (may be simultaneous with real life experience); and
    • Recommendation for sex reassignment surgery by two (2) qualified mental health professionals who recommend sex reassignment surgery with written documentation submitted to the physician performing the genital surgery*; and
    • Separate evaluation by the physician performing the genital surgery.

* At least one (1) letter must be a comprehensive report. Two (2) separate letters or one (1) letter with two (2) signatures is acceptable. One (1) letter from a Master’s degree mental health professional is acceptable if the second letter is from a psychiatrist or Ph.D. (clinical psychologist.).

Procedure Codes
55970, 55980

When ALL of the above criteria are met, the following breast/genital surgeries may be considered medically necessary for the following indications:


  • Breast augmentation
  • Orchiectomy
  • Clitoroplasty 
  • Colovaginoplasty
  • Labiaplasty
  • Orchiectomy
  • Penectomy
  • Vaginoplasty

Note: Although not a requirement, it is recommended that MTF undergo feminizing hormone therapy (minimum 12 months) prior to breast augmentation surgery. The purpose is to maximize breast growth in order to obtain better surgical (aesthetic) results.


  • Breast reconstruction (e.g., mastectomy)
  • Colpectomy/Vaginectomy
  • Hysterectomy
  • Metoidioplasty
  • Penile prosthesis
  • Phalloplasty
  • Reduction mammoplasty
  • Salpingo-oophorectomy
  • Scrotoplasty
  • Testicular prosthesis implantation
  • Urethroplasty

Note: Penile prosthesis surgery is typically performed at stage two (2) or three (3) of a multi-stage phalloplasty (a minimum of nine (9) months following stage one (1)).

Procedure Codes
19303, 19304, 19318, 19324, 19325, 53430, 54125, 54400, 54401, 54405, 54406, 54408, 54410, 54411, 54415, 54416, 54417, 54520, 54660, 54690, 55175, 55180, 55899, 56805, 57110, 57291, 57292, 57335, 58150, 58262, 58552, 58554, 58571, 58573, 58661, 58999

The following procedures that may be performed as a component of a gender reassignment are considered cosmetic and, therefore, non-covered (this is not an all-inclusive list):

  • Blepharoplasty
  • Blepharoptosis
  • Chin augmentation 
  • Collagen injections 
  • Cricothyroid approximation  
  • Facial bone reduction-facial feminizing
  • Hair removal – electrolysis or laser hair removal 
  • Hair transplantation 
  • Laryngoplasty
  • Lip reduction/enhancement
  • Liposuction
  • Mastopexy
  • Nipple/areola reconstruction
  • Removal of redundant skin
  • Rhinoplasty 
  • Rhytidectomy  
  • Trachea shave/reduction thyroid chondroplasty
Procedure Codes
11950, 11951, 11952, 11954, 15775, 15776, 15820, 15821, 15822, 15823, 15824, 15825, 15826, 15828, 15829, 15830, 15832, 15833, 15834, 15835, 15836, 15837, 15838, 15839, 15876, 15879, 17380, 17999, 19316, 19350, 21120, 21121, 21122, 21123, 21209, 21225, 21227, 21899, 30400, 30410, 30420, 30430, 30435, 30450, 31599, 31899, 40799, 67900, 67901, 67902, 67903, 67904, 67906, 67908, 67909

Preventive Medicine GRS

Please refer to the member specific benefit plan for screenings (e.g., mammogram, routine gynecological examination, pap smear).

Preventive services are subject to the terms of the member’s individual or group customer benefit.

Refer to medical policy S-28 Cosmetic Surgery vs. Reconstructive Surgery for additional information.

Place of Service: Inpatient/Outpatient

The policy position applies to all commercial lines of business

Denial Statements

Outpatient HCPCS (C Codes)

C1813 C2622    


This policy is intended to document those medical guidelines used by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware for the purpose of coverage and reimbursement determinations under Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware health benefit plans. These guidelines are appropriate for the majority of individuals with a particular disease, illness, or condition; however, each person's unique clinical circumstances may warrant individual consideration, based on review of applicable medical records.

Discrimination is Against the Law
The Claims Administrator/Insurer complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. The Claims Administrator/Insurer does not exclude people or treat them differently because of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. The Claims Administrator/ Insurer:
  • Provides free aids and services to people with disabilities to communicate effectively with us, such as:
    • Qualified sign language interpreters
    • Written information in other formats (large print, audio, accessible electronic formats, other formats)
  • Provides free language services to people whose primary language is not English, such as:
    • Qualified interpreters
    • Information written in other languages
If you need these services, contact the Civil Rights Coordinator.

If you believe that the Claims Administrator/Insurer has failed to provide these services or discriminated in another way on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex, you can file a grievance with: Civil Rights Coordinator, P.O. Box 22492, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, Phone: 1-866-286-8295, TTY: 711, Fax: 412-544-2475, email: CivilRightsCoordinator@highmarkhealth.org. You can file a grievance in person or by mail, fax, or email. If you need help filing a grievance, the Civil Rights Coordinator is available to help you.

You can also file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights electronically through the Office for Civil Rights Complaint Portal, available at https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/portal/lobby.jsf, or by mail or phone at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 509F, HHH Building
Washington, D.C. 20201
1-800-368-1019, 800-537-7697 (TDD)

Complaint forms are available at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/office/file/index.html.

Insurance or benefit/claims administration may be provided by Highmark, Highmark Choice Company, Highmark Coverage Advantage, Highmark Health Insurance Company, First Priority Life Insurance Company, First Priority Health, Highmark Benefits Group, Highmark Select Resources, Highmark Senior Solutions Company or Highmark Senior Health Company, all of which are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

Medical policies are designed to supplement the terms of a member's contract. The member's contract defines the benefits available; therefore, medical policies should not be construed as overriding specific contract language. In the event of conflict, the contract shall govern.

Medical policies do not constitute medical advice, nor the practice of medicine. Application of a medical policy to determine coverage in an individual instance is not intended and shall not be construed to supercede the professional judgment of a treating provider. In all situations, the treating provider must use his/her professional judgment to provide care he/she believes to be in the best interest of the patient, and the provider and patient remain responsible for all treatment decisions.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware retains the right to review and update its medical policy guidelines at its sole discretion. These guidelines are the proprietary information of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware. Any sale, copying or dissemination of the medical policies is prohibited; however, limited copying of medical policies is permitted for individual use.

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