Not very long ago, any kind of cosmetic surgery – even cosmetic surgeries directly tied to reconstruction – were considered elective and therefore not covered by most health insurance plans. These days, though, times are changing, and more insurance companies than ever before pay for facial feminization surgery. Here’s what you need to know if you’re curious or you want to find a new insurer who will help you pay for your surgery.
Elective vs. Medically Necessary
Insurers, employers, and individual states alike argue that surgical procedures designed around gender reassignment or gender affirmation are not medically necessary. However, transgender patients who do not get the treatments they need, whether these are hormone treatments, gender reassignment surgery, or FFS, are far more likely to rely on their insurance companies to pay for mental health treatments, including but not limited to therapy and medications for depression and anxiety. This depression and anxiety lead to physical health issues, and in turn, this leads to far more medical expense. For this reason, many rightfully argue that FFS should be a covered procedure.
To confirm their brands’ support of transgender rights and equality for all, many companies have gone out of their way to ensure their transgender employees have access to the healthcare they need – including FFS. Starbucks was recently in the news for their decision to make these procedures part of the standard coverage, and Kroger is another national chain that isn’t far behind.
It’s important to remember, though, that employers do not provide insurance themselves; they do so through third parties. If your employer offers healthcare through companies like Highmark, WellPoint UniCare, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Amerigroup, or Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (among others), your FFS may be covered. Keep in mind, too, that these companies offer different plans for employers, and these are the plans that are then offered to you. Double check what’s available and ask questions if anything is unclear.
Before diving into a list of private companies that provide coverage for FFS, it’s important to remember that individual states have laws that protect certain groups of people, and transgender individuals are no different. Massachusetts, California, Oregon, and Washington are among some of the best states in the country, so if you live here, there’s a good chance that your surgery may be protected under state law, which essentially requires your insurer to treat it just like any other medical procedure. In fact, Massachusetts law requires insurance companies to cover facial feminization surgery, which sets a precedent for other states and other insurers.
These days, more and more companies are getting on board with making FFS and other gender affirmation and reassignment procedures available to the patients who need them. Hopefully, as more companies like Starbucks and Kroger publicize their willingness to provide access to such coverage, other companies and even states will join the likes of Massachusetts and require their employers to provide such care. Then and only then will universal coverage be available so that people can get the care they need – and deserve.