Should Trans Surgery Be Covered?

Feb 28 2013 @ 2:19pm

Gender reassignment surgery just got an unlikely advocate in Emerson College’s Phi Alpha Tau fraternity, which is raising money for one of its own, Donnie Collins, to receive female-to-male breast augmentation. Emerson’s insurance won’t cover the procedure, as it is “common practice for insurance companies to deem female-to-male breast augmentation—or top surgery—as a cosmetic plastic surgery rather than a necessity.” But that tide is starting to turn, as “many of the top American universities” are changing their insurance coverage to include gender reassignment surgery. Julie Hollar puts that progress in context:

Only those transgender youth privileged enough to get into schools like Princeton or Stanford will have access to full health coverage that will enable them to align their gender presentation with their gender identity–which can have important reverberations down the line for their job and life prospects. Not all transgender people want to take hormones or undergo surgery, but for many it is a medical necessity–something both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have recognized. …

The real story here is that so many transgender people–those without access to elite higher education or certain Fortune 500 jobs–face serious health care discrimination that puts them at an even greater disadvantage than they already face. If we had a single-payer system, where your health insurance didn’t depend on where you go to school or if you have a certain kind of job, it would still be a struggle to get these things covered, no doubt. But it would be one unified struggle, instead of thousands of disparate ones.

Update from a reader:

I hate to do this, but speaking as an alumnus of Emerson (’08), and an alumnus who transferred from a big state school, I have to throw a bit of water on this “unlikely” development.

For starters, Phi Alpha Tau is not a national fraternity, but one local to the college, and one that is not recognized by any major national organization related to Greek life. Secondly, and more importantly, Greek life at Emerson, a small arts school with a relatively low number of students living on-campus, is pretty minimal in comparison to a big school, like Boston University or Northeastern nearby (I myself recall only ever meeting one person living in a frat, and he was a pledge who bailed after initiation). That, in combination with a higher-than-average percentage of LGBT students, makes this less unlikely and more an outlier to the rest of collegiate Greek life. This is still a positive development, but it would actually bear some weight if, say, this was Chi Phi at BU.