Chicago to allow health coverage for gender reassignment surgery (UPDATED)

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel AP

Rahm EmanuelAP

Rahm Emanuel

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans on Wednesday to allow reassignment surgery for the city’s employees as part of their health benefits package.

“Chicago is known for being a city that is welcoming to all and inclusive of every resident, and this new policy is in line with our efforts to support the rights and well-being of transgender individuals,” Emanuel said in a statement. “With this change, Chicago will ensure that transgender city employees are able to receive the medical care that they need.”

The change first will be implemented for non-union employees. The city said it is working with labor representatives to remove an exclusion of sex-change treatment for union members.

The mayor’s office said the change is expected to be approved by the city’s Benefits Committee on Aug. 11 and would go into effect on Oct. 1.

City employees and their dependents would be eligible, with a “lifetime cap” of $100,000 for the male-to-female and female-to-male procedures. The city currently is finalizing the specific criteria that must be met in order for an employee or dependent to receive coverage for sex reassignment surgery, as well as the specific procedures that will be covered.

The change comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois called attention to the denial of health insurance coverage for a transgender city employee.

John Knight, LGBT & HIV Project Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he commends the city for “recognizing that no one should be denied insurance coverage because of who they are.”

“More and more cities, states, private employers and the federal government have gotten rid of these outdated policy exclusions that make no sense, from either a medical or an economic standpoint,” he said. “It’s wonderful news that Chicago employees will now have access to the gender affirming care they need.”

Chicago is joining several other major cities that have removed the exclusion of sex reassignment surgeries from their health care plans, including San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

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