The University has expanded health care coverage to include some secondary procedures aimed at alleviating the gender dysphoria faced by transgender and gender non-conforming people.
The University of Minnesota has expanded its gender care coverage offered through the employee benefit plan to include certain secondary procedures, such as facial masculinization or feminization and electrolysis for facial hair removal. The expanded health care coverage came into effect on January 1.
The expanded coverage emerged from collaboration between the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life (GSC), the Transgender Advice and Action Team (TAAT) and the Office of Human Resources (OHR).
“We sent out the announcements on behalf of OHR, TAAT and GSC,” said Finn Schneider, acting director of GSC. “Before the day was over, we had nearly a dozen responses from employees and students alike, expressing their excitement.”
In an email to the Minnesota Daily, TAAT Co-Chair and Healthcare Task Force Chair Beth Elliott-Thul wrote, “This project has been worked on by many people who are employees and students. current or former university, for many hours and many spreadsheets. It’s really a project in which people have invested themselves body and soul.
Schneider said the healthcare system is not necessarily easy to navigate and is even more complicated for people oppressed by the same system.
“For a long time, medical procedures or medical services that we trans people need to be healthy and well were exclusions or considered elective procedures,” they said.
Schneider added that TAAT has worked to address these types of healthcare inequities since its inception.
Mary Rohman Kuhl, OHR’s senior director of total compensation, said OHR got involved after noticing growing frustration among people covered by the University’s health care plan about certain unintended medical procedures. covered.
Rohman Kuhl said OHR consulted with Medica, the University’s healthcare provider, to determine what secondary care procedures are considered medically necessary to maintain a certain level of care.
To determine the standards, OHR turned to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
WPATH determines the guidelines, or “standards of care,” established to advise healthcare professionals on how to provide transgender and gender-diverse people with the care necessary to achieve personal comfort and maximize overall health.
OHR is reviewing WPATH standards to determine which services should be included in health care plans, according to Rohman Kuhl.
“Our attention has been brought to these standards because of our internal partners at the U, like our TAAT group and others who work in different departments across the U who have expertise in gender dysphoria” , said Rohman Kuhl.
Gender dysphoria is a feeling of discomfort or distress that can occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
When OHR consulted with Medica about expanding services, Rohman Kuhl said OHR found that Medica was already moving forward to bring its covered procedures up to WPATH standards of care.
“Beginning this fall, the OHR is committed to holding very regular meetings with TAAT members. So, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, we had two of our TAAT members who were very knowledgeable about health care issues meet with an OHR employee,” Schneider said. “I think that’s been instrumental in that progress.”
The change enacted January 1 applies to employees covered by the University Employee Medical Insurance Plan offered by OHR.
However, Schneider said another change TAAT would like to see is to make other health care plans like the pharmacy plan, employee assistance plan, and student plan more inclusive for transgender and non-transgender people. gender-conform.
“One of the things that TAAT is excited to do in the future is to really build a relationship with the Office of Student Health Benefits, so that we can try to help that process when the time comes for them to bid again on their plans,” they said.
WPATH is expected to release new standards of care this spring, according to Katie Kolodge, health and wellness consultant for OHR. Kolodge said OHR plans to continue the process of working with GSC and TAAT to ensure OHR understands what is needed in terms of gender care and health care coverage.
“It’s really an amazing win,” Kolodge said. “We’re so grateful and we’re like, ‘there’s more work to do. We have to get back to it.