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Colorado Becomes 18th State to Not Fund Circumcisions

Colorado Becomes 18th State to Not Fund Circumcisions

Circumcisions will not longer be covered by Medicaid in Colorado beginning in July, according to the Denver Post.  Colorado, like 17 other states, is making this move as a money saving measure. However, other reasons such as a decline in the circumcision rate and the lack of medical justification for circumcision may be playing into the decision.

Cost Cutting

The Associated Press reports that Colorado was looking at all possible avenues to save funds, given their budget shortfall of $1 billion. The move, which has been considered for years, will save $186,500 per year. Sentator Kent Lambert, who was part of the Joint Budget Committee, told the Associated Press that he thinks of the decision being 99% for economic reasons.

No Medical Justification

The Denver Post notes that the decision to stop covering the cost of circumcision is becoming increasingly common. It is a fairly easy decision to make, since there is “virtually no medical justification for the procedure.” Dr. Susan Pharo, the director of Medicaid and External Pediatric Care for Kaiser Permanente told the Denver Post that “the medical reasons are not convincing either way.”

However, in some jurisdictions, the argument goes beyond circumcision simply being medically unnecessary. In San Francisco, for example, a proposal to ban circumcision of minors is likely to make it onto the November ballot.  This move, which is intended to protect the bodily integrity rights of children, has created a lot of controversy — Anti-Semitic comics are being used in support of the ban and a coalition of Jews and Muslims has filed a lawsuit to block the ballot measure on the grounds that it infringes on their right to practice their religion.

Declining Circumcision Rate

According to the Denver Post, circumcision is still the most common medical procedure performed on children, with around 75% of men having been circumcized. This rate is higher than in other Western countries, such as Canada (30%) and the United Kingdom (6%).  However, the numbers are also dropping. The New York Times reported in 2010 that the rate of circumcisions being performed in hospitals dropped from 56 percent in 2006 to 32.5 percent in 2009.

Not Unanimous Decision

Colorado’s decision to stop funding circumcisions under Medicaid was not unanimous. Democratic Senator Irene Aguilar, who is a primary care doctor at Denver Health, told the Denver Post that the procedure is quite inexpensive to perform. She also expressed concern that the move would “be discriminatory for Jewish and Muslim people on Medicaid.”

San Francisco vs. Colorado – Two Different Issues

Ultimately, it would appear that the issues at play in the Colorado Medicaid decision and the proposed San Francisco ban are different. If circumcision is not medically necessary, then it makes sense that it would not be covered by Medicaid.

In San Francisco, however, where a full ban is proposed, the issue of freedom of religion does come into play. In that case, the question will be whether the human rights argument against circumcision is stronger than the religious freedom argument in support of circumcision.  There are, after all, other religious traditions that are banned in the United States for human rights reasons.

Photo credit: Michael Bentley on flickr

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58 comments

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5:04AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

Parents who want their son(s) circumcised for religious reasons would rather have it done at their house of worship by someone approved by their religion to do so. If the parents are poor, their religious leaders can arranged for the house of worship to pay for it. Under the rough conditions prevailing in the time of Abraham and in many places today, circumcision reduces the chances for transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. If there is a medical reason for circumcision in a particular case, I can see Medicaid paying for it. If it is elective, the patient or family should pay.

7:39PM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Does anybody know which are the other 17 states? I would be curious to know. I wonder about Oregon and how about the Canadian provinces? Thanks.

7:52AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Apparently circumcision can drastically reduce your risk of contracting HIV in areas where it is prevalent.

7:44PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Hey, J.B. - If you read my post, it was not about whether I oppose or support circumcision. I voiced my opinion that the state should not pay for it. I must be one of the few people left in this country who has a problem with the government trying to control everything we do, telling us what we should think & spending our money for us.

2:37PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Circumcision is TERRIBLE!! Have any of you seen the videos on youtube?? Those poor boys scream like you've never heard... It's so wrong!! These boys are being intentionally harmed for cosmetic reasons. It's the same as cutting off a baby girl's breast buds with the hopes that it will keep her from getting breast cancer. That seems pretty ridiculous, right? Well, mutilating boys is just as ridiculous. If they want to be cut, let THEM decide when they are adults. Why would anyone tamper with a perfect child anyway is beyond me... GO COLORADO!!

8:46PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

Hey Cheryl and Laura! How would you like to have a part of your body removed without your consent? A boy's integrity belongs to him and him only. Americans have been brainwashed about circumcision. 99% of Europeans are not circumcised because only 1% of men might need it. Why penalize the 99%?

5:48PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

No one here even begins to know what you are talking about when it comes to circumcision. There are reasons for it to be done. My husband had to be done at the age of 62 because he could not pee. There is a medical term for his condition I can not remember what it is called but the only cure was to be circumcised. I will tell you now he went through a lot of pain having it done at his age of 62. There is little pain done as a newborn as the skin is very thin at that time of life. I watched someone suffer for a good month having this done later in life. Look it up and you will find that many men have to have this done later in life and there is no choice and it is far more painful and messy at that point. It is also very messy and he had problems directing his urine as it would spray all over until healed. There is the reason for newborns being circumcised above and beyond being clean. It is also medically noted that women who have relations with their men are more prone to cancer of the uterus do the fact that even though a man feels he has cleaned good there are still many bacteria left in the skin.

4:36PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

It should not be paid for unless it is medically necessary procedure, which it is most definitely not.

1:55PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

Unless they would also pay for FGM, they should not pay to mutilate boys either.

1:55PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

Unless they would also pay for FGM, they should not pay to mutilate boys either.

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