Many of the U.S.’s top universities are taking radical new steps to accommodate transgender students and offering coverage for gender reassignment surgery as part of their student health insurance plans.
Last week, Brown University announced they would be extending their student health plan to cover sex-change surgery beginning in August.
Brown is the 36th American university to offer complete coverage for the surgery, joining a list of other top academic schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and Princeton. Twenty-five additional colleges do not cover surgery, but have health plans that cover hormone therapy.
Omari Sankofa II
Activists have pushed hard during the past decade for colleges to be more accepting of transgender students, and the extension of these student health insurance plans is considered a major win.
But is this something colleges should be expected to pay for?
Colleges are not required to provide health coverage for their students — since many still are covered by their parents — but this hasn’t eased the amount of controversy these plans have received.
Last year, an insurance mandate that called for universities to cover contraceptives made national headlines and received some political opposition. This mandate eventually passed and colleges now are required to cover birth control to students without copay.
Although one could argue contraception coverage is a reason to support health plans covering gender reassignment surgery, the two still don’t seem equal.
Objecting to colleges covering the sex-change operation costs also doesn’t mean you don’t sympathize with transgender students.
Going your entire life feeling trapped inside a body you don’t identify with is something many of us will never understand, and many companies and health organizations have voiced their support.
In 2008, the American Medical Association advocated for treatment of gender identity disorder. Other medical groups, such as the American Psychiatric Association, also have taken this stance.
But even so, it still doesn’t seem like it should be the responsibility of the university to foot the bill for these operations. They can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but college administrators say the cost of covering the services is negligible because so few students seek out medical treatment.
But this doesn’t seem to fully answer where the additional funding is expected to come from.
Since a large portion of a university’s wealth comes from its student body, covering the cost of such an operation seems like something that should be levied more on the individual, their families or their future employers.
Many companies now offer coverage for numerous measures that adhere to their transgender colleagues. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights group, also says about 1/4 of Fortune 500 companies have health plans that cover sex changes or hormone therapy.
No matter what your opinions are about this issue, the fact this conversation exists — and more and more colleges are offering new opportunities for transgender students — demonstrates the tremendous strides our country has made toward universal equality in the past few years. That alone is something we all can agree on and celebrate.