Insurance plan for U Penn students to cover sex change procedure

    Students’ health insurance at the University of Pennsylvania will include an unusual benefit starting this Fall – sex change procedures.

    Students’ health insurance at the University of Pennsylvania will include an unusual benefit starting this Fall – sex change procedures.

    Penn administrators decided to include the benefit this week, after lobbying efforts by students advocating for transgender people. The insurance plan will cover sex change operations including counseling and hormone treatment up to $50,000. Most insurance plans don’t cover this procedure. U Penn bio-ethicist Arthur Caplan says the decision to include this benefit could be spurred by a better understanding of transgender people and their medical needs. But he adds another reason:

    Caplan: Part of the honest answer answer is – cost. if you have something like sex-change operations, the number of people who actually use them are tiny and they are not really going to impact the financial bill.

    Advocates for transgender people are applauding Penn’s decision to include the procedure. Dr. Robert Winn is medical director of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, which provides health services for lesbian, gay, bi- sexual and transgender people. He says there are a lot of misconceptions about the procedure:

    Winn: Number one that every person who is transgender or considers themselves to be gender variant is going to WANT to have the surgery, because not everybody does. And number two is that a lot of people don’t understand that it’s not something that’s cosmetic but it’s more of a medically necessary procedure to make them a whole person.

    About eight thousand students at the University are enrolled in the school’s insurance plan, which costs close to three-thousand dollars a year. Insurance industry experts say the new benefit will likely not drive up cost as very few people will take advantage of it.

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