The University of Maryland is exploring the possibility of expanding student health insurance plans to include sexual reassignment surgeries.
According to the university’s campus newspaper, The Diamondback, University of Maryland officials and the University Health Center have submitted three proposals to insurance companies detailing what they would like new student plans to include. Each proposal includes coverage of up to $100,000 for any kind of sex-change procedure, including genital surgery, hysterectomies, mastectomies, breast augmentation and hormone therapy, which is only partially covered under current plans.
“What we’re looking to do by including this is not provide more services but to remove exclusion,” Joe Ehrenkrantz, diversity director for the Student Government Association, told The Diamondback. “Right now, we’re excluding a certain gender identity from health care. They’re calculating discrimination into the cost of health insurance.”
Nicholas Sakurai, associate director of the university-funded LGBT Equity Center, said resources for transgender students still need to be added, but noted that adding coverage of sex changes to student health plans helps to “make sure we’re not discriminating as an institution.”
University officials say price will be a major deciding factor in whether or not the school chooses to add transgender services to plans. Sacared Bodison, director of the University of Maryland’s health center, said she expects premiums to increase roughly $15. Students pay $1,363 for current plans. But, Bodison noted such services are not likely to be used by a wide array of students.
“It is not a benefit many people would use, so it has to be weighed against all the other people who would pay extra money,” she told The Diamondback.
Adding such services to the all student health plans appears to benefit a small population of University of Maryland students. Only five have reached out to the University Health Center for transgender care throughout the last two years, university officials say, and only one of those used the school’s student health plan.
However, Sakurai argued the inclusion of such services could help transgender students, many of whom are at a greater risk for depression and suicide.
“The cost is to our students’ well-being,” he said.
Roughly 50 schools nationwide have expanded health coverage to include sexual reassignment surgeries. The University of Maryland, though, would be the first in the Old Line State to do so. However, many universities have committed to designating gender-neutral bathrooms to students, as the University of Maryland did.