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UC-Berkeley Health Plan Adds Laser Hair Removal to Transgender Coverage

By Gage Cohen | July 24, 2017 | 11:59am EDT
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The University of California in Berkeley is adding laser hair removal and fertility preservation to its available “transgenders health services” covered under the university’s student health insurance plan (SHIP).

According to The Daily Californian, starting on August 1, transgender students will have facial and neck laser hair treatment and fertility preservation (usually involving cryopreservation of sperm or eggs) covered under their SHIP in addition to seven other services already covered.

The manager of the university’s health insurance program, Bahar Navab, said that the addition of fertility preservation to the plan was important because transgender individuals who undergo some sort of hormone treatment often have issues with reproduction.

“Trans and gender nonconforming people unfortunately face not only ignorance but also sometimes stigma on the part of the clinical providers who need to care for them, in part because most clinicians have not been trained in this aspect of healthcare,” wrote Navab in an email.

While most insurance plans do not cover laser hair removal or “top surgery” because they are viewed as cosmetic procedures rather than medically necessary ones, UC-Berkeley’s health center views them as important to treating a student’s gender dysphoria. Navab, SHIP’s manager, called laser hair removal one of the “critically important and often under-supported … treatments for transfeminine people.”

The university currently covers hormone therapy, “gender confirmation surgery,” breast augmentation, female-to-male top surgery, electrolysis of the neck and face, tracheal shaves, and “limited travel expenses” for transgender students. The health center notes that some services, including fertility prevention, are also available to non-transgender students who require them (e.g. a woman suffering from ovarian cancer).

According to the university health center’s communications director, “less than 0.3% of utilizing members currently receive transgender surgery.” However, the program’s manager suggested more services may be added to the new list of those covered by SHIP, saying “future benefit additions will be considered if they are requested by our clients and SHIAC” (the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee).

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