Duke Sex Change Surgery: How Many Universities Cover Sex Reassignment?

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 2, 2013 4:50 PM EDT

Breast implant
Undergraduate students at Duke University will soon have sex change surgeries covered under their health plans. (Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard)

Beginning this fall, undergraduate students at Duke University who undergo sexual reassignment will have the surgery covered under their student health care plan.

"This is a huge step forward for Duke," said Sunny Frothingham of Blue Devils United, a student LGBTQ group. Frothingham called the new health care plan, which includes a $50,000 cap for reassignment surgery, "one of the most, if not the most, transgender-inclusive plans in the country." In addition to the surgery itself, the plan includes counseling and hormone therapy.

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"Our cap is competitive with or higher than our peer institutions," said Jacob Tobia, president of Blue Devils United. "This is really important symbolically for the Duke community. I hope that this will help us remain really competitive as an institution when recruiting students."

According to Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, the health care premiums will increase eight percent next year, but only 0.3 percent of that raise is from the new sexual reassignment coverage.

Last March, the Duke Student Government unanimously agreed to call for the sexual reassignment coverage. Duke joins 37 other universities in covering sexual reassignment surgery. Yale University recently began covering the surgery for their students as well, but at Yale there was no increase in the plan's cost.

The trend towards covering sexual reassignment surgery is not confined to universities. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 85 companies offered insurance plans which covered the surgery in 2010, compared to 49 the year before. Ten years prior, the number was zero.  

Transgendered individuals face social discrimination in far larger numbers than the non-transgendered population. A 2011 study co-authored by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 78 percent of transgendered Americans face severe harassment in childhood, with 41 percent of the transgendered population attempting suicide (versus 1.6 percent of the general population). Transgendered people are also twice as likely to face unemployment.

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