Transgender students face insurance issues at University

Alyssa Elso/Contributing Writer

An increasing number of universities throughout the nation are offering transgender students health insurance plans that cover gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.

In the last decade, activists have fought to acquire recognition for transgender needs on campus, beginning with the acknowledgment of a students name change to allowing them to use the bathroom of their choosing, progress has so far been made, as Harvard, Stanford, Emory and Cornell universities are now providing transgender students with insurance that covers gender reassignment surge.

According to the voluntary insurance plan offered to students through FIU’s University Health Services, sexual reassignment surgery and hormone therapy are currently not covered under the University’s insurance.

“Any time that a transgender student comes to us, our first step would be to identify at what stage of the gender identity process the student is in and the steps we can take to getting them assistance,” said Oscar Loynaz, Director of University Health Services. “We will also work with the Counseling and Psychological Services center to further identify their needs.”

In determining whether universities should cover sex-change surgeries, debate has risen between insurance companies and doctors. Insurance companies consider gender reassignment surgeries and hormone therapy as elective surgeries and treatments that are not eligible for the University medical plan coverage, while doctors from the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association state that sex-change surgeries are medically necessary and essential to the wellbeing of the transgender individual.

The latest university to offer this coverage to students, Brown University, will be announcing its plan to cover sexual reassignment surgery this coming August, becoming the thirty-sixth university to offer this coverage to students.

Gender reassignment surgery includes a variety of procedures that alter the anatomy to create physical traits of the opposite gender. Psychological counseling and some form of hormone treatment usually follow the surgery.

As universities are slowly beginning to recognize transgender students, the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, reported that about one-quarter of Fortune 500 companies offer health plans that cover sex changes in addition to hormone therapy.

As FIU does not currently offer treatment options through the University’s insurance plan, students can reach out to the University’s LGBT community, clubs and organizations for support including the GLBT Advocacy Coalition, Rainbow Panthers, Stonewall Legal Alliance, and Stonewall Pride Alliance.

Six years ago colleges and universities offered no such treatment for transgender students. According to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, the number of universities offering health insurance plans has since increased as today 36 colleges offer hormone and gender reassignment surgery, and an additional 25 only cover hormone treatment.

The University Health Services insurance meeting will take place on February 27 from 9 a.m. to noon, to discuss health plan coverage for the upcoming academic year.