Comprehensive transgender healthcare for Dallas employees is ‘off the table’

Posted on 07 Feb 2013 at 3:01pm

Nell Gaither

Despite efforts by local activists, the city of Dallas likely won’t add comprehensive healthcare for its transgender employees this year.

Trans Pride Initiative President Nell Gaither met with City Manager Mary Suhm, as well as representatives from the Human Resources department and UnitedHealthcare, last week to discuss what the city’s plans actually cover due to confusion in January.

Gaither said the city covers everything related to trans healthcare except gender reassignment surgery, including hormones, counseling and wellness checkups regardless of gender.

She said the possibility of covering the surgery next year wasn’t discussed, as the conversation focused on ways to communicate the coverage to city benefit workers and all the city’s employees, who are encouraged to contact Human Resources if they have questions or if something is not covered that should be.

“The city’s position is they’re covered these [benefits] for several years, so that’s what we’re going with,” Gaither said, adding that surgery won’t be added. “It’s off the table.”

But Dallas police officer Debbie Grabowski said she hasn’t ever had her hormones covered under the city’s plan. She said she’s been on vacation but would contact the city when she goes back to work to talk to them about hormone coverage. She added that she wished she and other trans people didn’t have to continue to fight for coverage under the plans by contacting Human Resources.

After starting a letter campaign to city officials to change the healthcare plans to include everything related to trans healthcare, Gaither said she ended that campaign because of the meeting, even though it looks like adding the surgery to the plans isn’t going to happen.

However, she’ll use the opportunity over the next year to educate people about the surgery and the need for it to eventually be covered. Many believe when the Affordable Healthcare Act is fully enacted in 2014 that all medically necessary surgeries will be covered, including comprehensive trans coverage, but Gaither said the specific requirements for coverage are still being written.

“I’m going to continue to advocate because I think there’s a lot of misinformation about the surgeries and how they’re medically necessary,” she said. “If we have these other things covered, that’s not bad for now.”

In Fort Worth, where nothing related to trans healthcare is covered by the city’s Aetna plans, Fairness Fort Worth board member Tori Van Fleet said the group is still working on a plan to add the coverage outside of the City Council.

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