Blue Cross of Kansas Changes Policy on Transgender Surgery | Health, Medicine and Fitness

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas changed a policy that prohibited gender reassignment surgery for people who had not legally changed their names, the company confirmed Thursday.

The change came after the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund raised the issue on behalf of Charley Osman, a transgender man, who was rejected after applying for pre-clearance in June for two surgeries.

“I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to go through this, but I want to be sure I’m the last,” Osman said in a press release from ACLU Kansas. “This is an incredibly expensive surgery, and for a long time I was afraid I couldn’t have it. I am very happy that Blue Cross Blue Shield has changed its policies so that no one else has to go through what I have done.

Several medical providers agreed Osman’s surgery was medically necessary, the Kansas ACLU said. The organizations sent a letter to Blue Cross Blue Shield on behalf of Osman in August, saying the name change requirement was outdated, incompatible with medical standards, discriminatory and illegal.

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With the policy change, Osman will undergo the surgeries by the end of the year, the statement said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas said they are making decisions based on feedback and ideas from their members.

“Policies are important to ensure that we keep costs and insurance affordable,” the company said in a statement. “However, we are constantly reviewing and updating these policies to meet the changing needs of our members, and this is a good example of that work process.

Ezra Cukor, senior lawyer for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said many transgender people might not want to change their names. Legal name changes can also be expensive and time consuming and unrelated to medical necessity, he said.

“We are pleased that BCBS of Kansas has come together to change this archaic policy requirement,” said Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas. “This is an important first step in ensuring that Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Kansas provides care that is inclusive, non-discriminatory and grounded in clinical standards.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading LGBTQ rights group, welcomed the change.

“Transgender Kansans have struggled for years to overcome disparities in access to health care and insurance,” Witt said in a statement. “Today’s news signals another step forward for LGBTQ Kansans on our long road to full equality.”

The insurance company’s new policy lists 18 procedures often associated with gender reassignment that it says are considered cosmetic and will not be covered. These include things like breast or calf implants, hair removal, voice modification, or chin reshaping.

Brett said the two advocacy groups will continue to work with Blue Cross and Blue Shield Kansas on policy changes to ensure other subscribers are not denied “medically necessary care.”

This story has been corrected to show that Ezra Cukor used the pronoun he.

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