UC-Berkeley adds 'laser hair removal' to student health plan
The University of California, Berkeley will soon add “laser hair removal” and “fertility preservation” to the list of “transgender student services” covered by its student health insurance plan.
According to The Daily Californian, the two new services will be officially added on August 1, complementing existing services for transgender students that are already covered, including “gender confirmation (reassignment) surgery,” “breast augmentation (MTF top surgery),” “female to male top surgery,” “hormone therapy,” and more.
"Less than 0.3% of utilizing members currently receive transgender surgery."
Bahar Navab, who manages the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) for University Health Services, explained that fertility damage is a common side-effect of the hormones that some transgender individuals take, and that fertility preservation treatments enable those individuals to become pregnant or produce sperm without having to stop taking the hormones.
Navab also pointed out that most health insurance plans do not cover services such as “male-to-female top surgery” and hair removal because they consider them cosmetic procedures, whereas Berkeley’s plan views them as treatments for “gender dysphoria,” though they will also be offered to student with other medical necessities.
“Our Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee (SHIAC) had discussed adding these benefits for transgender patients two years ago,” Kim LaPean, communications manager at University Health Services Tang Center, told Campus Reform. “When we brought the benefit additions back up for discussion with SHIAC this past year, the student representatives expressed their support and requested to expand the benefits to anyone with medical necessity as well (e.g. a patient with ovarian cancer may who may also want fertility preservation).”
LaPean acknowledged that “less than 0.3% of utilizing members currently receive transgender surgery,” a figure that university officials do not expect to increase significantly, but said “it’s important to reiterate that the expanded benefits apply to anyone with medical necessity as well (e.g. a patient with ovarian cancer may who may also want fertility preservation).”
“There are an infinite number of ways that someone can identify in regard to gender,” asserted Laura Alie, chair of the Transgender Care Team at the UHS Tang Center, told Berkeley’s News department. “It’s our goal to make sure trans or gender-nonconforming students feel completely at home in the Tang Center, no matter what department they go to.”
Recently-elected student senator Juniperangelica Cordova, however, told The Daily Cal that while she thinks the university has been doing “a good job” of accommodating transgender students such as herself, she plans to work with the Tang Center to go even further.
“It’s a matter of making sure that everyone who works at Tang is up-to-date in terms of using our names and our pronouns,” she said. “I’m excited to see new procedures and new coverage being added and I’m looking forward to working with Tang this year in making sure trans folks are healthy.”
Navab indicated openness to Cordova’s goals, saying, “Future benefit additions will be considered if they are requested by our clients and SHIAC.”
According to an updated health insurance plan, which was revised in 2016 to incorporate several services for transgender students, students can pay as little as 10 percent of the cost of most transgender services, including “top surgery,” “bottom surgery,” and hormone therapy.
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