Transgender Access to Health Care

I want to start off by just apologizing for being a little haphazard in my posting here. I am hoping to get on a more regular posting schedule. I have had a lot of different things going on, and I have had a lot that I have wanted to write about but little time to do it. I do appreciate those who have stopped by to see what is going on here, and I look forward to writing more and engaging in some discussions of the topics and issues.

I just got off the Town-Hall conference call with Donna Rose, Jamison Green, and Becky Allison. I thought it was a good start, and I hope there can be more opportunities for our community to come together like this. I think one of the major benefits of calls like this is the breaking down of economic barriers. Today’s topic was essentially health care, and underlying the need for coverage is the need to break down economic barriers. Far too many in our community are unemployed or underemployed. For many, making the journey to a conference may not be possible for economic reasons. Calls such as this will help those members of the community to be able to reach out and interact with the Transgender community at large. I think this will also be of value to those who may live where there is no trans community to speak of. 

Now on to the topic. I think most of us have heard about the AMA resolution in June and the WPATH statement in July. These were both significant statements. I would like to start with the AMA statement, which was actually three statements related to removing barriers to careremoving insurance barriers, and removing financial barriers. The one thing that struck me was the repeated use of GID throughout the statements. They did, however, reference GID as a medical condition, and referenced not only the DSM but also the ICD. Now, I was not familiar with the ICD until this evening. I would appreciate information about it if anyone knows a little more about it, and how GID is treated in the ICD. I think that it is positive that the AMA referred to GID as a medical condition as opposed to a mental disorder. I am curious about how this statement in conjunction with the WPATH statement and other papers could serve to help legitimize our need for treatment if GID were removed from the DSM.

I am behind Kelley Winters’ efforts, my only concern being that we have another avenue by which can can continue to gain the medical treatments necessary to transition. I know some have argued that they do not want to be medicalized. To those I would argue, how can one justify medical treatment in the absence of a medical condition. I want to be medicalized, I just don’t want to be pathologized. I believe that part of our process towards equal health coverage is strengthening the medical need and the recognition of GID in the medical community as a medical condition.

I rather liked the fact the the WPATH statement included things such as chest reconstruction and FFS. As Jamison mentioned, chest reconstruction is the only surgery that many FTM’s want at this time, and for many of them, this surgery is very validating for their gender presentation. The WPATH statement acknowledges that the path to transition is about more than GRS. There are other surgeries and procedures, which some consider cosmetic, that go a long way towards helping to affirm ones gender identity and help make a transition more successful and less emotionally painful (I think anyone who has been through laser or electrolysis knows these don’t reduce physical pain!). 

I think one of the most powerful things in this statement was the AMA’s statement of dispelling the myth that treatments, procedures, and surgeries for trans people are cosmetic or experimental. For us, these procedures are necessary for us to be able to live a life that is more genuine and more true to who we really are. These procedures reduce the emotional stress that can cause so many other health problems. When it comes to insurance companies arguing about cost, I have a few examples of my own situation. Prior to coming out and beginning transition, I smoked almost a pack of cigarettes a day and I was borderline high cholesterol. Within days of coming out, I quit smoking. I stopped cold turkey, now that I was on the road to being me, I didn’t need that crutch. I also changed my eating habits and reduced my stress levels significantly. I was no longer eating the bad foods we eat when we stress eat, fast food, high fat foods, high cholesterol food, you know that stuff that tastes so good but is horrible for you. Since then, my cholesterol is half of what it was before. Not smoking and reduced stress are also significant. Essentially, I likely saved my insurance company easily hundreds of thousands of dollars by transitioning. I greatly reduced my risk of heart attack and stroke, reduced my need for cholesterol and blood pressure reducing medications, slashed my cancer risk each year that goes by, and greatly reduced the potential costs if depression were to lead to suicide or suicide attempts and the related hospitalizations. You tell me, which is better. I think I would take the road of paying for therapy for a few years, GRS and a few other procedures, and HRT. Over my lifetime I bet that it will cost them a lot less then the bypasses and other procedures I was headed towards! 

Another thing I did take away from this was the need for education. Educating our employers, the insurance companies, and the insurance brokers that our companies deal with. There were several stories of brokers discouraging Trans benefits, or pricing them too high to be affordable. I worked in the insurance industry for a brief period of time, and when you are a smaller company, you have little or no ground to negotiate when it comes to benefits. It all comes down to what can I and my employees afford, and what do we have to give up this year. The education has to start with the insurance companies and the larger companies that have the negotiating power. If every company listed in the Fortune 500 index said we want full coverage for out trans employees, I am sure that the insurance companies would take notice.

I find it interesting that many insurance companies offer full benefits to their trans employees, and yet make it difficult and expensive for other companies to provide the same benefits. I wonder about the concept of creating an index that would measure and rate insurance companies not only on the benefits they provide their own employees, but also on how they make the same benefits available to subscribers. Imagine being self employed and having to shop for health insurance with trans benefits, I am sure that is impossible, and if possible prohibitively expensive. 

We need insurance companies to recognize trans benefits as a fundamental part of any group or individual plan. Spread over a sizable group, the costs are negligible. I believe one study showed that it was pennies per premium. I will find that presentation and post it later, I think it was from an Out & Equal conference. If this is part of every policy, cost would not be an issue, and we would finally have equal access to health insurance and the procedures that we need. 

I look forward to future calls, and the discussions and actions that they will generate. There are a few things out there that are dividing some of us, we need to concentrate on many of the things that bring us together. We will always have differing opinions on how to tackle a particular issue, but I think we need to respect the diversity of opinions in this community. We are an educated community, and we need to realize that there is more than one way to approach an issue. Good night to everyone, and hope to talk about some of this more.

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