President Trump on Wednesday announced that the military would no longer allow transgender people to serve, citing both “the tremendous medical costs and disruption” that would be caused by their integration into U.S. forces.
But at least two studies in recent years have found that the cost of medical care for transgender service members would be minimal.
A June 2016 study from the RAND Corporation estimated that there were between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender active-duty service members — out of 1.3 million service members in total — and noted that not all of them would seek treatment related to gender transitioning. The study also estimated that the cost associated with medical care for gender transition would only increase military health care expenditures by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year — an increase of between 0.04 and 0.13 percent.
As for the disruption caused by gender transitions, the study found that fewer than 0.1 percent of military members would seek treatments that could delay deployments.
A September 2015 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reached similar cost estimates.
The study estimated that there were about 12,800 transgender service members who would be eligible for medical care. But it hypothesized that fewer than 200 would require care for gender transition each year, based on the percentage of transgender people who sought such care outside the military and the percentage of Australian service members who sought transition-related care.
The overall estimated cost to the Pentagon: $4.2 million to $5.6 million — what the study’s author called “little more than a rounding error in the military’s $47.8 billion annual health care budget.”
The Obama administration announced last year that the Pentagon would cover the cost of gender-reassignment surgery with a doctor’s recommendation and approval from the military. It also said current transgender service members would be allowed to serve openly, and that the Pentagon had a year to devise a plan for enrolling new transgender military service members.
But before Trump’s announcement Wednesday, the Pentagon last month said that it was delaying allowing transgender people to enlist in the military by six months.
Still, there has been pushback from some Republicans. Earlier this month, an effort led by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) to stop the military from covering gender transition-related care failed in the Republican-controlled House, with 24 GOP members joining Democrats in opposition to the measure, according to the Associated Press.
Hartzler had estimated that covering such treatment could cost the military $1.3 billion over a decade, and said that troops who underwent surgery would be out of service for months.
“It makes no sense to create soldiers who are unable to fight and win our nation’s wars,” Hartzler said.