The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Sexual reassignment surgery coverage not likely for UNC employees

Duke University recently announced its decision to include sexual reassignment surgery in employee health care plans, but UNC-CH isn’t likely to follow suit.

The changes at Duke will go into effect on Jan. 1 and insure up to $50,000 in medical coverage for sexual reassignment surgery for transgender faculty, said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration at Duke.

Duke’s current health insurance already covers hormone replacement and counseling, he said.

“We want people to look at Duke as a progressive employer and be genuinely appreciative of the equity and diversity message that this sends to our workforce,” he said.

Sexual reassignment surgery was also added to student health insurance plans this fall, and Cavanaugh said the new coverage has seen positive reception.

But UNC-CH shouldn’t expect to see a similar change in its student or employee health coverage.

Stephanie Thurman, assistant to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean, said there are significant differences in the health insurance plans offered at Duke, a private institution that is self-insured, and UNC-CH.

She said the State Health Plan of North Carolina, the insurance provider of all teachers and state employees, would have to make the decision to add sexual reassignment surgery to its health coverage.

Schorr Johnson, spokesman for the State Health Plan, said there is no current plan to offer that coverage.

The Board of Trustees of the State Health Plan would have to approve such a decision and include it in all 650,000 members’ plans, he said.

Cavanaugh said the change to Duke’s employee insurance came after university officials saw several peer institutions implementing similar benefits, he said. The university has been working with the Duke LGBT Task Force to explore changes that could be made to health insurance plans by January.

“This is a benefit, as you might imagine, that will not have a high utilization but it’s incredibly important for the individuals that would potentially take advantage of it,” Cavanaugh said.

He said adding sexual reassignment surgery to employee health insurance plans is an increasing trend, not only among institutions of higher education but also in many private-sector corporations.

Still, Terri Phoenix, director of UNC-CH’s LGBTQ Center, said there haven’t been any discussions regarding transgender health care coverage at the University.

Phoenix said the current plan doesn’t cover hormone replacement therapy, something the LGBTQ Center has been advocating.

Because pre-menopausal women undergo estrogen therapy, which is covered by their insurance, Phoenix said transgender people should have access to the same coverage.

“Identity should not matter when it comes to what medical procedures are covered by your insurance,” Phoenix said.

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