The insurance cost for UIC students will increase about 15 percent this fall, to $922 a year, $9 of which is attributed to adding the surgery option for transgender students. The procedure, commonly known as a “sex change,” transforms a person’s physical appearance and sexual characteristics to that of the other sex.
Trustees debated the insurance change for about 15 minutes in a board meeting on the UIC campus, and then voted 6-2 to add the benefit. Trustees Edward McMillan and Dr. Timothy Koritz, both Republicans, voted against it. Two board members were absent.
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Koritz, an anesthesiologist, said he was concerned that state and federal financial aid could end up paying for a health benefit that taxpayers may not support, and that he would not participate in as a physician.
“It is our responsibility to be (financially) responsible with taxpayers’ dollars and I think a lot of taxpayers may feel that is not an appropriate use of their money,” Koritz said. He added: “I would be too uncomfortable to do anesthesia for that procedure.”
“I don’t feel that ethically, morally … that I could support the possibility of that happening at the university.”
Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald, a former U.S. attorney, who voted for the measure, said he would “give deference to the student body,” whose representatives brought the issue to the board of trustees.
“I would be uncomfortable if we got into a situation where we looked at every ... procedure and tried to decide how comfortable taxpayers would feel,” said Fitzgerald, who is considered a political independent.
The insurance plan is self-funded by student fees and most medical care is provided at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System. Gender reassignment operations are not performed at the university hospital, however, and will be considered an out-of-network benefit. As such, students will be responsible for 30 percent of the cost.
More than 11,500 of the campus’ 27,000 students participated in the health insurance program, called CampusCare, last academic year. It’s feasible that student health fees could be covered by state aid or other financial assistance that cover tuition and fees.
A UIC graduate student proposed adding the surgery in the health insurance plan, and the UIC student fee advisory committee supported it and brought the issue to the university’s board of trustees. The university’s flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign and its smaller campus in Springfield do not cover it.
About three dozen other universities have added the benefit in recent years, according to UIC. Northwestern University added it about a year ago, and also includes hormone therapy and mental health intervention if needed, said Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage. The University of Chicago's student health plan does not cover the procedure, but officials are exploring adding it, said spokesman Jeremy Manier.
UIC officials said they expect fewer than one student per year will use the benefit. Aetna Insurance, the vendor for at least 19 universities that cover the surgery, told UIC that there were seven surgeries at those schools last year, according to Michael Ginsburg, UIC’s associate vice chancellor for student affairs.
UIC students are automatically assessed the student health insurance fee, but can opt out if they show evidence of other insurance coverage through a parent or job, for example.
The lifetime benefit for services related to gender reassignment surgery is $117,096, including prescriptions and all medical care.
The insurance hike approved Wednesday is the first increase since 2008.