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Gender equality

‘Tremendous’ costs? US military spends five times more on Viagra than on transgender care

High-end estimate of transgender medical costs represent about 0.00001 of US military budget

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 8:58am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:49am

On Twitter Wednesday morning US President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military, citing “medical costs” as the primary driver of the decision.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” the president wrote.

While Trump didn’t offer any numbers to support this claim, a Defense Department-commissioned study published last year by the Rand Corp provides exhaustive estimates of transgender servicemembers’ potential medical costs.

Considering the prevalence of transgender service members among the active duty military and the typical health care costs for gender transition-related medical treatment, the Rand study estimated that these treatments cost the military between US$2.4 million and US$8.4 million annually.

Trump bars transgender people from US military

The study didn’t include estimates of these costs for reservists, due to “their highly limited military health care eligibility.” It also didn’t include estimates for retirees or military family members, because many of those individuals may also have “limited eligibility” for care via military treatment facilities.

“The implication is that even in the most extreme scenario that we were able to identify . . . we expect only a 0.13-percent (US$8.4 million out of US$6.2 billion) increase in health care spending,” Rand’s authors concluded.

By contrast, total military spending on erectile dysfunction medicines amounts to US$84 million annually, according to an analysis by the Military Times - 10 times the cost of annual transition-related medical care for active duty transgender service members.

The military spends US$41.6 million annually on Viagra alone, according to the Military Times analysis - roughly five times the estimated spending on transition-related medical care for transgender troops.

Looked at another way, the upper estimate for annual transgender medical costs in the military amounts to less than one-10th of the price of a new F-35 fighter jet. Or, 1000th of one per cent of the Defence Department’s annual budget.