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Public university raises tuition, removes cap on insurance claims for sex-change operations

Officials running the University of Minnesota’s student health insurance program have removed the cap on insurance claims for sex-change operations for the coming school year, a campus spokesman confirmed to The College Fix.

Another change for the 2015-16 school year? A tuition increase.

Under the new rates, in-state tuition, frozen since 2012, will grow by $180, while the nonresident rate will climb by $1,350, the Star-Tribune reports. That’s a 1.5 percent increase for in-state residents, and a 7 percent hike for nonresidents, the Tribune added.

The increase in tuition and the change in the health insurance plan are unrelated.

However, college costs are on the rise, having increased at a rate that outpaces inflation for more than two decades, contributing to record levels of student debt. Nevertheless, campuses nationwide continue to see fit to raise the cost of their programs even more, all the while adding new expenses along the way.

At the University of Minnesota, the 2013-14 Student Health Benefits Plan covered up to $35,000 in gender identity claims. During the last school year the cap was bumped up to $50,000 – according to the Minnesota Daily student newspaper.

But for the coming year, the 2015-16 Student Health Benefits Plan will allow students to submit any claim without limitation for gender identity therapies.

“We provided services with an annual maximum. We removed the annual maximum for the upcoming plan this fall,” Steven Henneberry, assistant director of university news services, told The College Fix in an email.

He would not say what, if any, cost to students was associated with that change.

 According to the university’s Center for Sexual Health website, therapies offered include hormone therapy and referrals to surgeons who perform breast augmentations, chest reconstructions, and genital reconstructive surgery.

Students are automatically enrolled in the university’s healthcare plan unless they present a waiver stating they have other health insurance, the university’s website states.

“The cost of the Student Health Benefit Plan for the 2015-2016 academic year averages $166.50 per month,” the website states. “Plan members will see a charge of $999 on their university bill once at the beginning of fall semester and once at the beginning of spring semester.”

 In 2014-15, the twice yearly cost was listed at $1,049, according to the university’s website. This year’s cost marks a decrease of $100 per year.

Nevertheless, when factoring in the recent increase in tuition, students will still pay more to attend UMN this year.

Public plans, such as Medicaid, require patients to pass medical exams showing the sex-change surgery is necessary. The University of Minnesota notes that “recommendations for hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery are based on the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care,” its website states.

“It is important to us that students don’t have any kind of a barrier of access to care,” Sue Jackson, director of student heath benefits, told The Minnesota Daily.

Lobbying by the LGBTQ campus community convinced health policy officials to add insurance coverage of gender identity disorder, Carl Anderson, chief operating officer at Boynton Health Service, told the Daily.

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About the Author
Anthony Gockowski -- University of St. Thomas.