Breaking New Ground on Health Coverage for Transsexuals
In what is believed to be the first time in the U.S., a South Florida woman has been approved for an individual health insurance policy issued to a post-operative transgender.
Obtaining individual health insurance coverage is often a daunting task, but for a transsexual, the obstacles are overwhelming. At age 56, Melissa (last name is withheld by request) is a woman in good physical and mental health, yet she faced the iron gates of discrimination and bigotry when it came to getting health insurance. The reason: Melissa completed gender reassignment surgery six months ago.
Following rejections by numerous insurance underwriters, she contacted Steven Shulman, a licensed insurance professional based in Miami.
“I was astounded by the responses I received from underwriters and providers,” says Shulman. “Only a couple of underwriters even went through the motions of requesting an application, which was subsequently denied, with no reason given. Others responded with the most incredulous statements.” Companies including Vista, United Health, American Medical Security, Assurant Health, and Avalon declined to accept or underwrite the case. Some of the responses included
§ “We will decline a person that has had a sex change even if there are no health concerns.”
§ “Will not consider for underwriting, do not apply!”
Some of the underwriters cited the increased potential of emotional disorders resulting from gender reassignment surgery, yet when Shulman offered to have mental health coverage excluded from the policy, it was still denied.
Only Humana Health Insurance, through its Humana One individual division, provided Melissa with comprehensive individual health coverage, following the usual application process, including a complete physical and laboratory tests.
In 2003, Shulman broke new ground when he successfully assisted Gloria Stein*, a transsexual, in obtaining an individual life insurance policy fully underwritten and with a preferred rating under her postoperative status. The policy was issued by Mutual of Omaha, through its United of Omaha division.
*Note: For 45 years, Gloria Stein had been Shulman’s “Uncle Butch,” and she began her gender reassignment surgery at the age of 65. Out of his experience with coming to terms with his uncle’s transformation and their subsequent new relationship, Shulman has written a soon-to-be published book, entitled My Uncle Gloria. “The more I learned about the barriers faced by people like Gloria, the more I wanted to help others receive equitable treatment in insurance coverage,” stated Shulman.”