City looks to insure sex-change procedures

City looks to insure sex-change procedures »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - The city of Portland wants to expand its medical coverage for employees who want to get a sex change, a move that will cost $108,000 a year.

According to Mayor Sam Adam’s spokesman, Roy Kaufmann, the city would pay 95 percent of the cost for the procedure and leave the remaining five percent for employees to pay out of pocket.

He said it would cover a lifetime benefit of $75,000 for each employee who gets gender reassignment surgery. Employees covered under the city’s core plan would pay about $20 a year more in premiums.

It’s an effort to provide equal benefits to city workers, Kaufmann said.

“The fact this has come up at all is because the city is looking at providing better equity and equality in how we issue benefits to our employees,” he said.

He said the procedure isn’t considered cosmetic and the American Medical Association has recognized it as a necessary procedure for patients suffering from gender dysphoria.

The city’s labor unions have until April to decide whether to recommend the change to City Council which will have the final say. If the unions don’t sign off on the proposal then the issue dies.

The issue doesn’t come without controversy.

Cynthia Corke said getting around in her motorized wheelchair is challenging enough, but it’s nothing compared to getting medical coverage for basic procedures like dental care.

“Why should they go for something like a sex change when I can’t even get insurance?” she said. “I don’t think the money should go for something like that. There’s too many important things and people sleeping on the streets.

Others, however, said they’re all for the expanded coverage.

“It should be recognized as we’re starting to recognize same-sex marriage. If someone wants to change their sex, yeah, most definitely,” said Art Rios.

So does Damon Woodcock, who was a former Portland police officer who paid for his surgeries to become a man. He said it would have saved him thousands of dollars.

So far, officials with the city said the Human Resources department hasn’t yet had one inquiry about having insurance pay for sex changes.