City's health plan to soon cover 'gender confirmation surgery'

Posted: April 26, 2013

This story has been updated.

IN A MOVE that the LGBT community called "historic," City Council approved a bill yesterday that would require the city's health plan to pay for transgender city workers to complete "gender-confirmation surgery." The bill also would require newly constructed or renovated city-owned buildings to have gender-neutral bathrooms.

"We're continuing on the American road to full equality and civil rights for all of our citizens," said Councilman Jim Kenney, who sponsored the bill at the request of the LGBT community. The bill passed 14-3, with nay votes from Councilmen Bill Green, David Oh and Brian O'Neill.

Mayor Nutter will sign off on the measure, said spokesman Mark McDonald.

The bill would establish transgender health benefits for city workers to cover psychotherapy, hormone treatments, laser-hair removal and gender-confirmation surgery, which costs about $50,000 per procedure.

"The changes in the medical insurance for transgender surgery . . . I'm not there yet," O'Neill said, noting it was the reason he could not support the bill. Kenney said there would be on average two surgeries a year.

The bill would also provide up to two tax credits - the lesser of $4,000 or 25 percent of any cost increases - to companies that start offering health care for life partners and their children and covering transgender medical needs. Green said the $2 million a year the city would dish out for the tax credit is a "waste" and would provide "a marginal and incremental benefit."

Meanwhile, Dolan Kneafsey, 37, a transgender male and city employee who appeared before Council yesterday with his wife and one of his two sons, said this bill would provide coverage to his family.

"I ask you to look at one of my sons and ask yourself why shouldn't he have health insurance and health care just as someone who was born biologically male, as he and his wife should have," Kneafsey said. "We should all be covered the same."

Regarding the bathrooms, members of the LGBT community said that transgender people are often subject to bathroom discrimination. Under the bill, the number of gender-neutral bathrooms would be based on the building's size and use and in addition to men's and women's rooms.

Since the city already requires single-use, nongender, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms in its buildings, there would be no additional cost, officials said.

The bill also calls for changing some online city websites and forms to be gender-neutral.

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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