New health plan adds gender identity disorder

by Ellen Schmidt

The University of Minnesota Student Health Benefit Plan is adding benefits for students with gender identity disorder.
School officials are removing a limit on the types of benefits offered to students who experience discontent with the sex and gender they were born with, a move made possible by the University’s health plan non-profit status and following a push from the campus community. 
“There seemed to be a growing interest in the college health community to provide benefits, so we explored it, got information and decided it was the right thing to do,” said Carl Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at Boynton Health Service.
Insurance coverage for some gender identity treatments, such as hormone therapy, were added in the past two years, Director of Student Health Benefits Sue Jackson said. The 2013-14 plan covered up to $35,000 in claims and rose to $50,000 the following year.
But this year, students can submit any claim without limitation for gender identity disorder therapies, including gender confirmation procedures.
“[The transgender community] is a relatively small population for a lot of schools, but we had enough people bringing it to our attention here,” Anderson said.
Besides the added benefits for students diagnosed with gender identity disorder, school officials have made other changes to the plan. They’ve added dental and vision coverage for students under 19 and a 5 percent cost decrease for students’ enrolled the 2015-16 plan. 
Public plans like Medicaid require people seeking transgender treatments to prove medical necessity before receiving coverage.
The strong support of LGBTQ issues at the University convinced health policy officials to add insurance coverage of gender identity disorder, Carlson said. 
He said the University’s plan is competitive with employer-based plans and the state exchange, while still being compliant with the Affordable Care Act that sent the cost of some school’s plans soaring.
Less than half of Big Ten schools cover gender confirmation procedures.
“It is important to us that students don’t have any kind of a barrier of access to care,” Jackson said.