Brown University to Cover Sexual Reassignment Surgery
The Brown Daily Herald, Brown University’s student newspaper, has announced that the college’s new health insurance plan will cover "14 different sexual reassignment surgery procedures starting in August."
Brown University Director of Insurance and Purchasing Services Jeanne Herbert confirmed the health plan change in an email to the newspaper. "We identified this as an important benefit for students to have access to," Hebert wrote.
Brown will join several other schools and healthcare providers around the country that cover reassignment surgeries. Hebert said the school’s policy change was in line with "Brown’s efforts to support all students."
Herbert added that the coverage will be funded through renewal rates paid for next year’s student healthcare coverage. The total package of sexual reassignment surgeries, which includes hormone therapy, can cost up to $50,000. The Herald notes that the school’s LGBTQ Center coordinator, Kelly Garrett, has been calling for the healthcare policy change for years.
Garrett said the procedures covered are "very standard and very comprehensive." Transgender students had formerly not been able to access sex reassignment surgeries while attending Brown due to the high cost, she added.
"I know people where it’s taken them 10 years because they needed to save money," Garret told the newspaper. She said many doctors say the procedures are necessary but insurance companies exclude them from coverage because they view such procedures as cosmetic in nature. She noted that the change couldn’t have been made without the help of student advocacy groups like GenderAction, a subgroup of Queer Alliance.
"Brown has joined a pretty small group of colleges that give full benefits for trans students," Maddy Jennewein, a member of GenderAction said. "I think it’ll be a huge impact for trans students. This is a really great opportunity for them."
One transgender student lauded the healthcare change. "Like with anything, it depends on the person, but the fact that Brown is now offering these surgeries is life saving for them," Noah Lupica told the Herald. According to the Herald, Lupica himself went through his "first stage of surgery" when he was in high school.
Lupica added that the procedure had helped him "come into myself." He noted that all transgender cases are different but Brown’s new policy will cover all of his needs.
For female-to-male surgeries, the plan will cover, mastectomy, hysterectomy, salpingo-oophorectomy, vaginectomy, metoidioplasty, scrotoplasty, urethroplasty, placement of testicular prostheses and phalioplasty. For male-to-female surgeries, the new policy will include orchiectomy, penectomy, vaginoplasty, clitoroplasty and labiaplasty.
Brown isn’t the only college to cover reassignment procedures. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Cornell, Harvard, Stanford and Penn State all cover at least some sex reassignment surgeries as of 2012. Garrett noted that it hasn’t been decided if the change would also cover Brown’s staff, "The insurance plans are completely separate, so we’re in the discussion," she said.
"I think we have a great reputation as a liberal school that attracts a lot of different students," Jennewein told the newspaper. "I’m glad our student policies are now up to par with the student body."
Located in Providence, R.I., Brown is an Ivy League school generally considered one of the most elite institutions of higher learning in the country. It accepts only 8.9 percent of applicants, making it one of the most difficult schools in the world for matriculation.