Brown University has expanded its student health insurance to include coverage for sex-change surgery, one of 37 colleges and universities in the U.S. to cover hormone and gender reassignment/confirmation surgeries, according to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
“We admit to Brown based on a nondiscrimination policy and this benefit is important for some of our students under that policy,” said Margaret Klawunn, Brown University vice president for campus life and student services. “And some students and parents have been asking us to include this coverage.”
With recommendations from the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association that gender-reassignment procedures are medically necessary when prescribed by a physician and should be included in health-insurance coverage, more insurance companies are covering all or some of the procedures, she said.
“If this surgery is supported by those organizations, then the insurance companies are looking at it as important for the well-being of people,” she said. “[Other] schools are already covering it with their student insurance, so it’s not something new for Brown to do it.
“And it didn’t cost us any additional money,” Klawunn said. “With the renewal of our contract, we were able to add this enhancement and several others without increasing the cost.”
Brown is among a few colleges in New England, including Harvard University, Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts, to have sex-change procedures covered by its student health plan, according to a list compiled by the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. It is the only college in Rhode Island to cover the surgery, based on the list.
At Rhode Island School of Design, coverage for sex-change surgery would be decided by the school’s insurer, college spokeswoman Danielle Mancuso said.
“We are fully insured with Blue Cross Blue Shield and they determine coverage,” Mancuso said. “So the student would have to file the claim with Blue Cross.”
The University of Rhode Island’s student health insurance does not cover gender-reassignment surgery. URI Health Services Director Charles Henderson said in an email the student health- insurance policy spans a short duration and does not include any elective procedures.
But the definition of elective procedures may be in transition as colleges review evolving pressures from students and society and reflect those in student health services.