DHHS declines to attend gender affirming care committee briefing

Feb. 29, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ·

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Nebraska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Timothy Tesmer, was scheduled to provide clarification on the state’s gender affirming care regulations for minors at a briefing Thursday afternoon.

However, he and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services declined to attend.

Last week, the Health and Human Services Committee requested a briefing from Tesmer to clarify the final rules and regulations of LB574, which was passed by the legislature last year.

Temporary regulations on gender affirming care for minors have been in place since October 2023 and are awaiting approval from Attorney General Mike Hilgers and Governor Jim Pillen to be finalized.

At Thursday’s briefing, Health and Human Services Committee chair Ben Hansen read a letter from DHHS Chief Legal Officer Bo Botelho explaining the department’s decision to decline participation in the briefing.

“Given the regulations are still not finalized and still under legal review for the APA promulgation process, the department must respectfully decline participating in today's requested briefing,” Hansen read.

Without Tesmer in the hearing room, Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh shared some of the more than 20 questions she had planned on asking him.

“How do you respond to the frustrations expressed regarding the lack of updates to the regulations despite overwhelming opposition both in person and online?” she asked. “Can you provide insights into the decision-making process regarding updates to the regulations and how various stakeholders inputs, including those with medical expertise and standing are considered?”

At the close of the briefing, which only lasted around 10 minutes, Hansen said he hoped it would help facilitate dialogue between the government and the public.

“Even with somebody not present here, this can kind of begin that process of more communication between the department and our committee about some of the updated rules and regulations concerning (LB) 574.”

Hansen said he was open to having another briefing with Tesmer in attendance once things become more settled.