U of M one of few schools to pay for gender surgery

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Transgender students at the University of Minnesota can use the school's Student Health Benefit Plan to pay for gender reassignment surgery.

The university began covering up to $35,000 for treatment last year — a cap the University may increase, the Minnesota Daily reports.

The U of M is one of a handful of schools in the Big Ten that cover surgical procedures related to gender dysphoria. That's a condition where people feel their biological sex and gender identity don’t match.

Some transgender people seek surgery to correct this mismatch. Others use hormones to transition their gender, which could take months or years to complete.

Ph.D. candidate and research assistant in the State Health Access Data Assistance Center Gilbert Gonzales told Minnesota Daily  he thinks more schools could cover surgery in the future.

“I think this is the direction that a lot of employers and schools and even government employers are heading,” he says.

Indeed, the trend is already taking hold. In fact, it's becoming mainstream.

Six years ago, the New York Times reports, no U.S. college or university offered gender reassignment surgery. Now dozens of schools cover some or all sex-change treatments, according to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

On the list are many of the top American universities — Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Penn, Emory, Northwestern, the University of California system, Yale, Princeton, M.I.T., Washington University and others.

Still, Stanford University School of Medicine points out that major disparities persist for the approximately 700,000 transgender adults who live in the United States. That number is an estimate because no precise national data on this population exist.

Stanford finds U.S. doctors are unprepared to treat transgender patients after they have begun to take hormones and undergone genital-reconstruction surgery. The lack of medical education on the topic, a near-total absence of research on transgender health issues and the resulting lack of evidence-based treatment guidelines leave many health care practitioners at a loss.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison this year added gender dysphoria surgical procedures to its Student Health Insurance Plan.

Minnesota Daily reports health plan manager Richard Simpson says school officials felt comfortable adding the coverage because Madison’s student insurance plan is in good financial shape.

“We want to be recognized as one of the best student plans, and we thought this was important,” he said.

Read more:

A survey of 6,500 transgender people by the National Center for Transgender Equality published in 2011 found pervasive discrimination in health-care settings. Among the results:

• 19 percent reported being refused care because of their gender status.

• 28 percent said they were subjected to verbal harassment in medical settings.

• 2 percent reported being physically attacked in a doctor’s office.

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