Transgender insurance considered for staff
U. already instituted changes covering the gender-confirmation process for students
April 29, 2010, 3:54 am · Updated April 29, 2010, 12:00 am·
Following the recent benefit added to the Penn Student Insurance Plan that would cover the gender-confirmation process for transgender students, a similar benefit is being proposed for staff members.
The Personnel Benefits Committee’s recommendation was presented at Wednesday’s University Council meeting as part of its 2009-2010 final report.
The committee recommends coverage of approved triadic treatment for transgender staff members, according to Chairwoman Ingrid Waldron. She presented the recommendation as one of “high priority.”
Triadic treatment consists of psychotherapy, hormone therapy with either estrogen or testosterone, and sex reassignment surgery.
The committee based its recommendation partly on the low costs that the change would bring to the insurance premium and on the American Medical Association’s endorsement of inclusive coverage for transgender individuals. Waldron also emphasized the importance of Penn’s Non-Discrimination Policy in their decision.
A diagnosis of gender identity disorder (GID) would be necessary in order for a staff member to use any insurance benefits for triadic treatment, according to Waldron.
GID is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “a strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex).”
The classification of GID as a mental illness is a designation not always welcome by transgender individuals, according to Erin Cross, the associate director of the LGBT Center. The process should be “treated as any other medical issue,” without the label of mental illness, she said.
Waldron acknowledged the conflict. “Some might argue that being transgender is not an illness, but then that would make them ineligible for coverage,” she said. “It’s a tricky thing in that regard … but people who have been diagnosed with GID need treatment just the same.”
Other schools also offer benefits for transgender students and staff. Harvard University covers top surgeries for transgender staff — breast augmentation for male-to-female patients and mastectomies for female-to-male patients. Similar coverage for students will be implemented in August.
Penn is the only Ivy League school to cover comprehensive triadic treatment for students. Cornell and Princeton Universities offer coverage for hormone therapy only, according to data from the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.
There are misconceptions around the concept of being transgender. “A lot of people think it’s a choice, and they wonder why we should have to cover someone’s choice,” Cross said.
However, “being transgender is not a choice,” she clarified. “It’s not something you wake up and decide.”
She added that “it’s really important that we act behind this coverage — to really be behind our Non-Discrimination Policy and make Penn a welcoming and open place for everyone.”