KSU health insurance to offer transgender coverage for faculty

Kent State health insurance plans will now cover transition-related health care services, according to an announcement posted Sunday on social media by Spectrum, the university’s LGBTQ faculty and staff group. The news came from an email from F. Jack Witt III, Kent State’s vice president for human resources.

Amanda Leu, the diversity coordinator for the College of Communication and Information who runs Spectrum’s Facebook page, commended the decision. She was part of a committee of faculty and staff members who discussed the policy improvements with university administrators.

“This has been an ongoing process for a few years, and we are very excited to finally have trans-inclusive health care policies at the university,” Leu wrote in an email to Fusion.

Leu said the committee has yet to see the specific details of the policy change. 

“However, any trans-inclusive policy changes are a huge step in the right direction,” Leu said. “Previously, there were specific exclusions listed in the faculty (and) staff health care policies that said that any procedures related to ‘transsexualism’ were not covered under any of the health care plan options.”

Leu said a subcommittee of Spectrum members researched various policies and other information about trans health care. They sought input from contacts at other local Ohio universities that have already implemented trans-inclusive health insurance policies.

Leu said personal stories from faculty and staff members about accessing trans health care “really helped put things into perspective for the administration.”  

Leu has had difficulty getting top surgery because of the lack of trans health covaerage in the university’s plan.

“I tried a few different things, but I was denied every time,” Leu said. “I am very excited to take advantage of the new coverage at the beginning of the year, and again, I am really looking forward to seeing the actual policies once they are released.”

Erica Pelz, another member of the committee who advocated for the health care policy, agreed. Pelz, the facilities mechanical systems specialist for laboratories, said she believes putting a human face to the issue helped demonstrate its importance.

“I think what really got the ball rolling was that I was willing to stand up and be counted, to say, ‘Look, this (lack of coverage) affects real people in a negative way, and I’m one of them,’” Pelz said.

Although Pelz may personally benefit from the health care access, she said her motivation was to give back to the trans community and to help others.

“When I started this, I didn’t think this was going to be something that would really even help me,” Pelz said. “That wasn’t my intention. It may, but my concern was more of the people who come after me. I want them to have access to better care than I did. I want them to have access to care earlier than I did.”

On Friday, when Pelz received the news, she was overjoyed.

“I was in (the Integrated Science Building) and I let out a ‘woohoo’ that echoed down the hallway,” she said. “I hope I didn’t disturb anybody’s class but I was just so, so overwhelmingly happy that it had happened.”

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