Tufts University expands student healthcare plan to include gender reassignment surgery

Tufts University has adopted a new healthcare plan that includes benefits for transgender students, making Tufts the 37th university or college in the country to offer health insurance of this kind, according to university officials.

Michelle Bowdler, the senior director of health and wellness services at Tufts, said that these benefits will include coverage of hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgeries.

“These are needs that are absolutely a medical necessity,” she said Friday in a phone interview.

Bowdler said that although only a small number of students will use these benefits, Tufts is an inclusive school and wants all its students to have access to a non-discriminatory health plan.

Emerson College and Harvard University have similar health plans, according to the Human Rights Campaign website.

At Tufts, the cost of adding the benefits was minimal, Bowdler said, but Tufts had to negotiate with the insurance companies. Many healthcare plans do not cover treatments and surgeries for transgender patients.

Bowdler said she hopes that other universities will follow suit, or at least consider adding counseling and hormone treatment for transgender people into health coverage plans, because the extra cost is extremely minimal.

“It’s just about taking care of the health needs of all of our students,” she said.

Tom Bourdon, the director of the Tufts University LGBT Center, said that since the university announced its new health plan, more students who are questioning their gender identity have approached him for advice.

He said that students are saying that “I feel a little more safe about talking about this.”

Bourdon also said that he has been contacted by two schools that are interested in adopting similar plans.

“When one school does it, it makes it easier for other schools,” he said of instituting these benefits. 

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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