The MIT Medical Transgender Health FAQ website now lists a “Surgery” benefit of up to $50,000 per year as part of coverage available to transgender patients under the MIT Student Extended Insurance Plan. The added coverage is for gender affirmation surgery (GAS), also known as gender reassignment surgery, in which some transgender individuals undergo procedures to modify their physical sex characteristics to match those traditionally associated with their transitioning identity.
MIT previously extended this coverage to its employees under the MIT Traditional Health Plan and MIT Choice Plan in a change announced July 30, 2013. At that time, the change did not apply to MIT’s coverage for students.
Both employee and student plans continue to cover visits with MIT providers, blood tests, and hormone therapy as part of transgender health care according to the website.
According to Abigail Francis, director of LGBT services at MIT, and Lucy Walsh, director of finance for MIT Medical, this change is the result of extended advocacy by several groups, including LBGT@MIT, a program under MIT’s Division of Student Life and part of the Student Activities Office according to its website.
“[LBGT@MIT] has worked with students and with MIT Medical staff for several years to identify gender-affirming, gender-inclusive, and trans*-friendly resources, professional development, and campus-wide education and awareness-raising opportunities,” Walsh and Francis wrote in an email to The Tech.
They said that LBGT@MIT collaborated with the MIT Trans Care team and student advocates to push for expanded coverage.
Walsh and Francis said that while the Employee Benefits Oversight Committee was able to extend the coverage to MIT employees last summer, a Student and Affiliate Health Insurance Advisory Committee was still being formed to investigate the effects of the Affordable Care Act on student insurance plans at the time, causing the delay in the availability of the benefit for students.
“Since there is a cost associated with adding any new coverage, it was appropriate for this decision to be considered in context with the other benefit changes that need to be made to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. The first meeting of the new Committee was in November 2013,” they wrote. The recommendation to add the benefit came in January and was approved by top administrators, effective Feb. 1.
According to Walsh and Francis, “The Student Extended Insurance Plan is a Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization, or PPO. Benefits will be determined based on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA established medical policy.” Service providers contracted under Blue Cross will submit claims directly, whereas students may need to pay for services at non-contracted providers themselves and later seek reimbursement. Walsh and Francis said Claims and Members Services on the first floor of E23 could provide more information.
According to nonprofit LGBT advocacy group Campus Pride, over 50 colleges and universities in the U.S. cover both GAS and hormone treatments for students, while nearly twenty cover only hormone treatments under student plans. According to Campus Pride and student newspapers at the institutions, all Ivy League universities except Columbia University provide coverage for GAS under student plans. Harvard added the coverage in November 2011.