UI mulls sex-change coverage for students

UI mulls sex-change coverage for students

URBANA — University of Illinois trustees are considering a proposal to cover sex reassignment surgery as part of the student health insurance plan at the Urbana campus.

Amid chants from a rally outside, the board's Committee on Audit, Budget and Finance Committee on Monday reviewed proposed student insurance rates for 2014-15, which include a small premium to cover the surgery.

Trustees approved a similar plan last spring for the Chicago campus, where students had pushed for the coverage for two years.

Sex or gender reassignment surgery is the medical process by which transgender people change their physical, sexual characteristics to reflect their gender identity.

Students at the UI's Urbana campus requested the coverage last summer, and a student health insurance advisory investigated the option during the annual bidding process, said Edward Slazinik, associate vice chancellor for student affairs.

Only a fraction of the 15 percent rate increase proposed is due to the gender surgery coverage, he said. About 13 percent would go toward fees and coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and 1 percent is for administrative costs, he said.

If the rates are approved, undergraduates would pay less than $2 per semester for the benefit, and graduate students would pay less than $3.

Overall rates would rise by $37 a semester for undergraduates, to $291 — still the lowest price in the Big Ten, Slazinik said. Graduate students would pay $48 more a semester for graduate students, or $376.

Students have the option of purchasing insurance through the university, but it is not mandatory. Students are required to have insurance but can remain on their parents' policies.

"We negotiate this policy and rate for students to be able to buy this as a pool," he said. "The student pays for the policy, and it's optional."

Supporters say the coverage is a matter of basic human rights, and the treatment can save lives for just a few dollars per student.

"Contrary to popular belief the coverage isn't that expensive at all," said UI junior Stephanie Skora, president of the Campus Union for Trans*Equality and Support.

Based on the history at other universities, few students use the benefit, UI officials say.

Trustee Timothy Koritz, who is a physician, repeated an objection he raised last spring, saying it was a matter of medical ethics. An 18-year-old who opts for the surgery is choosing "permanent sterility. There's no turning back," he said.

"I do not feel comfortable being any part of that."

He also said some parents or students might object on moral grounds. Koritz and Trustee Edward McMillan suggested making that portion of the fee optional even for those who buy the insurance. McMillan cited efforts by the University of Notre Dame to challenge the Affordable Care Act's requirements to provide birth control for employees.

But Trustee Pamela Strobel said that would likely disrupt the bidding terms negotiated with the insurance company. She said she's uncomfortable getting parents involved because of feared moral opposition.

"There's a significant difference between Notre Dame as a private, Catholic institution and a public university," she said.

Student Trustee Mike Cunningham complained that the proposal just appeared on his desk last week, even though discussions had been under way since August. He said 60 percent of undergraduates buy the insurance.

"I'm not entirely sure we have included everybody or that students have knowledge about this," he said.

Supporters pointed out that the Illinois Student Senate approved a resolution in early December supporting transgender equality on campus, including health coverage.

More than 100 people gathered outside the meeting at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to show support for the coverage. A change.org petition also drew about 2,000 signatures.

Justin Ostrowski, a student senator, said the objections raised Monday were just "straw man" arguments from those who oppose the idea.

Based on last spring's vote, Ostrowski said he still expects the proposal to be approved next week, when the full board meets in Urbana.

The movement to include the surgery in college health plans began around 2005. Several dozen schools now offer it, including the University of California system and the University of Michigan.


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Local Yocal wrote on February 25, 2014 at 11:02 am
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About a 100 people gathered. 2000 signed out of a school with 45,000.

Imagine a line of people. In this line, are the following: war veterans, the disabled, the developmentally disabled, children, inmates in prison, the homeless, the unemployed, the underemployed, the elgible poor seeking to get into college, the hungry, the sick, the overtaxed, the contaminated by industrial pollution, women receiving less pay for same work, victims of violent crime, innocent victims of war, the discriminated, ect....

...all seeking remedy of grievances and assistance from their government and various institutions.

Now no one is against the above article's premise of covering the health insurance for elective surgery many feel they have a right to, but the question becomes, at least for me the last few decades,....

....how do the homosexuals and transgendered always cut in line above all these other populations-in-need to get their political needs met long before everyone else? It is amazing to watch their political power at work. Could they teach the rest of us how they get the attention/legislation of politicians when they are such a small sliver of our population?

cgirl wrote on February 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

"how do the homosexuals and transgendered always cut in line?" The answer is: they don't These people are the discriminated, the underemployed, the people who have lost jobs for no valid reason. The people who's children are taken away and who are beaten "being different." If you want to get the political needs of "your people" met, imagine how you would want equality to look and then get together with other groups and work tirelessly for years or decades. That's the recipe.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm
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Sometimes people are born with incomplete or indecisive reproductive parts (hermaphrodism). Sometimes people are born with the wiring for one set of parts, but the tools for the other.


Fortunately, despite all the hatred and disgust among the ignorant masses, modern medicine has started to recognize this condition, and is learning how to treat it.


Your viewpoint is based on ideology, rather than science.

Joe American wrote on February 25, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Holy moly, this country is going to the crapper.....and quickly.

Why on earth would the publicly-funded University even CONSIDER paying for a sex change surgery??  If that's your cup of tea - go crazy, but pay for it yourself.
And cgirl, quit whining about discrimination, because paying for it won't solve a thing.  You will still be playing the discrimination card every chance you get.

cgirl wrote on February 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm

The University isn't paying for this, they're shopping around for insurance that covers what the students want. It can be viewed as a simple study of supply and demand.

The students demand better insurance, and are willing to pay for it. The campus is supplying them with a chance at a better, pooled rate.

cgirl wrote on February 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

I'm so glad that the students asked for this and that the University followed through. If students follow through our not, I don't really care. But this is a step forward for anti discrimination.

wykhb wrote on February 25, 2014 at 1:02 pm

When did a school become a health care system?  What exactly is UI teaching in the area of responsibility and life skills that makes someone believe it should pay for what is basically "Elective Surgery"?  Does this mean that Women with low self esteem due to small breasts should be covered for enhancement surgery?  Men with thin hair, transplant surgery?  When and where will it end?   Somewhere along the way, public Universities have turned into something strange, all in the name of "inclusiveness".   I wish someone would be the adult and simply say No to the constantly escalating stupidity.   You wanted Obamacare, you got it, now go sign up and pay the price and see if that wonderful cornucopia of taxpayer money will pay for your confusion.  Leave Universities to do what they are supposed to: Teach.

Sancho Panza wrote on February 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Is this insurance to cover elective changes in gender, as suggested by the article, or to move people towards male/female from being hermaphroditic, as suggested by Rob McColley?  If this is for a male electing to become female or vice versa, what other elective operations are covered by student insurance (ie. Lasik, cosmetic, sterilization, etc.)?   How is not paying for gender changes discriminatory, as suggested by cgirl, in a way that most insurance coverage not including Lasik or cosmetic surgeries?

cgirl wrote on February 25, 2014 at 6:02 pm

I think you misunderstood my meaning. I wasn't clear my previous statement.

I meant the fact that this discussion is being held is a step towards tearing down the walls of discrimination. The fact that the university is listening to these transgendered and gender queer students, that they are not being swept under the rug, is important.

I can see your point about optional surgeries not being covered by insurance being non discriminatory.

Having the option for insurance that covers transgendered needs is something I'd happily pay a couple bucks a month more for.

chumberley wrote on February 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

The school provides a health insurance policy to students, just as an employer might provide a health insurance policy to employees.  For those of us who are graduate students, we are often also employees.  How does providing a student health insurance plan detract from what the university is supposed to be doing?  How does this have anything to do with inclusiveness?  How does it make the school a health care system?  How is it 'escalating stupidity' (as you so eloquently put it)?  Your accusations do not logically connect to the issue at hand.  


This is quite simple...Students need health coverage, and the university provides them with an affordable plan.  The plan the university is considering purchasing allows coverage for gender reassignment surgery.  The increased cost of the plan that covers this surgery will be passed on to students through a higher premium.  Students have every right to decline the plan and provide their own health coverage.  If the students are fine with paying a slightly higher premium and choose to take out the policy, why do you care?  Unless you are a student, it really doesn't affect you.  Why is their such concern over what is covered by an insurance policy that you do not use?  And if you do use the policy...then still, who cares?  If you don't like it, then don't get your gender reassigned.  Just because the policy covers it, doesn't mean you have to use it.  The policy covers lots of things that I will never use, and I don't have any issue with this being another one of them.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 25, 2014 at 10:02 pm
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I can't understand the protests, on any level. I'd think Joe American would recognize the libertarian aspect. I'd think any bible-thumper would embrace the tacitly ... well, it's not exactly ANTI-homosexual as much as not homosexual aspect of being misassigned.

This debate reinforces my opinion that the roles have changed (irony noted) between the American "right" and "left."

30, 50 and 80 years ago; I would have argued that the "right" was more interested in data, and the "left" more ideological.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 26, 2014 at 10:02 am

I had no idea that you were that old.  Wow.. "30, 50, and 80 years ago"... you got me beat, and I am Old.  Did you vote for Roosevelt, or Dewey?

Both the "left", and the "right" have long held ideologies; and have been interested in data collection (polling) ever since they were designated as the "left", and the "right".  It is interesting to know how the designations were created.

I agree with the grad student.  This matter should be for the students to decide.  Students can opt out of insurance at the university if they choose to do so.

Dawnzer wrote on February 27, 2014 at 8:02 am

No, No, No. What is this world coming to? So, what if I am a female student and am not happy with my breasts and desire an enhancement or a reduction? Should the insurance cover these things?  What if I am not happy with my weight and want liposuction, gastric bypass. Hair wax removal, orthodonics, hairline implants, nose job, varicose vein removal ...What if I feel I want to be a dog and want a tail sewed on my behind? Where does this end? Someone needs to stand up and say, "Really? Seriously? Students, get to class, do your homework, get your education. That's why you are here!"

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 27, 2014 at 9:02 am

The students, and/or their parents pay the insurance premium.  They can opt out of the insurance if they can show other insurance coverage.  Currently, parents can keep their "children" on their insurance plan until they are age 25.  If the majority of the students decide to up their student group insurance premiums to cover the surgeries, that is their recommendation to the university.  Whether the university does it is another matter.

The premiums will jump up in cost.  The only potential losers in the premium increase will be those students who are not on their parents insurance; and who pay their own insurance premium while working their way through college.  There are not many students like that attending the U of I. 

The public can voice it's opinions; but the decision rests with the students, and eventually the university.  The parents are the ones paying for the decision along with the less affluent students; but there are not that many less affluent students attending the U of I anymore.


Huh wrote on February 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

So they care about what students think about sex change operations, but not about the constant tuition increases?

I you ask most students to pick between lower tuition or sex change insurance, lower tuition will win overwhelmingly. Of course, the chief would still also be the mascot.