Brown University’s student health plan will cover sex changes

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Students at Brown University who decide they want to change genders will now be covered under the school’s generous student health insurance plan.

Beginning in August, Brown’s student health insurance plan will pay for more than a dozen different sexual reassignment surgery procedures, including scrotoplasty, labiaplasty, clitoroplasty and placement of testicular prostheses, reports The Brown Daily Herald. The plan as currently configured will cover only students, not staff.

“We identified this as an important benefit for students to have access to,” Director of Insurance and Purchasing Services Jeanne Hebert wrote in an email to the school’s student newspaper. She added that the new health care benefit is part of a broader effort “to support all students” at Brown.

The total cost for a single sexual reassignment surgery, including hormone therapy and various other physical alterations, can be as much as $50,000.

The newly-covered sexual reassignment procedures are “very standard and very comprehensive,” Kelly Garrett, Brown’s LGBTQ Center coordinator, told The Herald.

The LGBTQ Center does not keep any sort of statistics on the number of transgender students at Brown, or the number who would like to change their sexual characteristics. Nevertheless, Garrett said, the LGBTQ Center has promoted the added health care coverage for many years, on the theory that the high costs of sex changes have prevented transgender students from seeking surgeries and hormone treatments.

“I know people where it’s taken them 10 years because they needed to save money,” she professed to The Herald.

Doctors sometimes deem sex assignment medically necessary, but most insurance plans don’t cover the procedures and most prospective patients can’t afford them, notes The Herald.

As a result, said Garrett, transgender people could “face discrimination” as a result of their gender identity.

First-year Brown student Noah Lupica, who is currently morphing into a male, praised the new policy.

“Like with anything, it depends on the person, but the fact that Brown is now offering these surgeries is life-saving for them,” Lupica told The Herald, adding that Brown’s insurance will meet all his sex change specifications.

A small sub-group of Brown’s Queer Alliance called GenderAction is largely responsible for pressing the administration to act.

“I think we have a great reputation as a liberal school that attracts a lot of different students,” said junior Maddy Jennewein, a member of the group, according to The Herald. “I’m glad our student policies are now up to par with the student body.”

Brown’s revised health care plan makes the school one of only a few in the country that will pay for its students’ sex reassignment surgeries. Other schools that offer sex change insurance include Cornell University, Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania.

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Eric Owens