Sex reassignment surgery to be covered in 2017

Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer

Murray State’s insurance and benefits will cover sex reassignment beginning Jan. 1, 2017 in compliance with President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule May 13 to provide health equity and prohibit health discrimination under section 1557.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “individuals are protected from discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping.”

Obama’s healthcare law prohibits health insurance discrimination based on sex.

An email was sent to members of the insurance and benefits committee informing faculty and staff that Anthem, the university health care provider, would cover these procedures beginning in the new year.

Peggy Pittman-Munke, social work interim program director, said she believes sex reassignment is beneficial to the campus community because there are people struggling to pay for the operation, and some are denied access to needed medical help under current insurance plans. She said some will deprive themselves of the operation when they cannot pay for it.

“This helps people get needed healthcare as well as emphasizing to medical providers the need to be aware of best practices in this area,” Pittman-Munke said.

The insurance and benefits committee received a request from the LGBT Programming and Advisory Committee to modify the health plan to include hormone therapy, mental health services and gender affirmation surgery, but they learned the current plan covers hormone therapy and counseling, but not the surgery, according to the email.  

Murray State works with Anthem to provide an insurance plan in compliance with Obama’s healthcare law, and the law incorporates coverage for all gender transition services, according to a statement from university officials.

According to Anthem’s guidelines for sex reassignment, individuals undergoing sex reassignment surgery must meet the following requirements: at least 18 years of age, the ability to make informed decisions, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, one year of hormone therapy documented by a health professional, previous participation in psychotherapy, no uncontrolled health issues and referrals from mental health professionals.

Gender reassignment is a treatment for those with cases of gender dysphoria, a condition where an individual does not identify with their gender.

Pittman-Munke said she believes it will take the community time to adjust to the new healthcare change, like it took time to adjust to pregnancy coverage 30 years ago. She said she hopes sex reassignment will be routinely covered by health insurances.

“The University will continue to work with our insurance plan administrator to ensure that, based on their interruption of the law, that University insurance plans are fully compliant with the Affordable Care Act,” according to statement from university officials.