Though Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Brown offer health insurance coverage for students to receive gender reassignment surgery, Yale is still reviewing its policies for the procedure.
The Yale Health Plan does not currently cover gender reassignment surgeries for students, but coverage was extended to faculty and staff at the managerial and professional levels in 2011 and to the unionized workforce last month. Dr. Paul Genecin, director of University Health Services, said he has noticed “increasing interest” both at Yale and other Ivy League institutions in offering insurance coverage for the procedure. Yale Health has received “a small number” of requests from students for gender-related surgery insurance coverage in the past, he said, and changes to student benefits are currently “under consideration.”
Gabriel Murchison ’14, president of the Resource Alliance for Gender Equity, said the lack of coverage is a sign of how unwelcoming the campus environment is for prospective transgender, gender nonconforming and queer students.
“The [current] policy sends a message to trans and gender nonconforming students that our concerns are not a priority, not to mention its effect on students who need this care and rely on the Yale Health Plan for their health coverage,” Murchison said.
Yale currently offers coverage for endocrine hormonal treatments and mental health services for students with gender identity disorder with assessment, support and treatment during transitions, Genecin said. Although gender reassignment surgeries are known to be costly, Genecin said offering insurance coverage for the procedure would only have a negligible impact on student premiums because few people choose to undergo the surgery.
Genecin added that Yale Health did not grant gender reassignment surgery coverage to students when coverage was extended to faculty and staff because policies for students are considered separately. Few patients have received medical care at Yale Health for transgender issues since coverage was offered to staff and faculty, Genecin said.
Andrea Wilson, the co-chair of the Yale LGBTQ Affinity Group — which aims to promote a healthy campus environment for LGBTQ employees, professors and postdoctoral fellows — said the University was receptive to their proposal for increased coverage for nonstudent University members.
“There are few other university employers that provide this coverage including Columbia, UPenn, Bowdoin,” Wilson said. “So we’re definitely leading the way in terms of coverage from university employees for this.”
The increasing coverage offered on campus is a “model of collaborative effort” between students and nonstudents on campus, LGBTQ Resource Center Director Maria Trumpler GRD ’92 said, adding that students and staff are currently working to extend that coverage to the entire campus.
Murchison said he does not know why the Yale Health Plan does not currently cover gender reassignment surgery because the administrators he has contacted have not communicated transparently about the issue. He added that he knows several students who have unsuccessfully attempted to receive coverage for gender reassignment surgery at Yale, adding that some students need the procedure in order to function in a college setting.
Michelle Morgan GRD ’15 said she came to Yale because of its LGBTQ-friendly reputation but was disappointed that the University did not cover gender-related surgery for her partner who is female-to-male transgender because coverage is not offered to students and insurance extends only to married couples.
“Yale’s slowness on this issue is a problem from the perspective of history,” Morgan said. “When history looks back on gender-confirming surgeries and coverage, Yale should strive to be on the cutting edge and not defensive side of that history.”
All Yale students have access to acute care, gynecology, health education programs, inpatient care, laboratory services, mental health counseling, nutrition counseling and student health free of charge at Yale Health.