After a long, largely unpublicized campaign by students and alumni, Colorado College administration has confirmed plans to adopt a health care plan that includes transgender students and staff.
“I think it’s important for the school to have that coverage in demonstrating that we are an inclusive campus,” Brett Grey, Colorado College’s LGBTQ Student Specialist, said.
Institutions around the country have been implementing similar plans, which are seen as an important step toward equality for transgender people who have been historically discriminated against in health and legal fields.
President Tiefenthaler recently confirmed the school will be adopting a more inclusive health insurance for employees beginning Feb. 1 and for students at the start of the next academic year.
“We offer a policy from an external provider for student health insurance, and we can’t make changes until next academic year,” explains Tiefenthaler. “[But] because we self-insure for employees, we can do that quickly.”
Although the specific plan for students has yet to be decided, the school is looking for one that does not exclude mental health and hormone benefits for transgender individuals, according to John Lauer, Senior Associate Dean of Students.
“Contrary to popular opinion, most of the upcoming changes in policy will not add coverage for so-called ‘trans-specific specific’ services,” Adison Quin Petti, a 2011 trans alum now working as the Leadership Development Coordinator for Public Health and Human Rights at CC, explained.
“Rather, they will merely eliminate the categorical exclusion of trans-people, to ensure they receive the same coverage as their gender-specific counterparts for basic services regardless of their gender identity,” Petti said.
While the college does plan to add coverage for gender confirmation surgeries for CC staff, it remains unclear whether coverage for surgeries will be also extended to students.
To date, the college has not yet released specific information on potential pricing increases as a result of these changes, but both Petti and Grey maintain that the economic implications will be marginal.
“For hormones and counseling, this should be a no-brainer because, comparatively speaking, these aren’t expensive services,” Petti said.
While gender confirmation surgeries are clearly more costly, the number of related claims to hit the policy is predicted to be extremely low, thereby limiting the financial risk of improving access to care.
It is unclear why the college has taken so long to address this issue, especially in looking at their latest innovative measures to adopt more LGBTQ inclusive practices.
Recently receiving national media attention for presenting Queer as a gender option on their job application, CC was in the middle of nationwide debate, with most in our college’s community praising their actions.
“I’m really proud to be working for a university that includes options that are nonbinary for applications. I think that’s a really important step towards making it an inclusive environment,” Grey said.
Despite the school’s progress in supporting the LGBTQ community, students and alumni took notice that the school was ignoring the issue of inclusive health care as other universities and institutions were implementing it.
Responding to the lack of attention towards this issue, Kat Teter and Marley Hamrick, two Colorado College alumni, drafted a petition a three weeks ago asking for the school to adopt a more trans-inclusive health care policy.
“Hamrick and I co-authored the petition to highlight community support for health insurance policies that included trans students and staff. I wanted to encourage the College to take action sooner, rather than later,” Teter said.
The administration has been pressured for years by a relatively small group on campus to address this issue; however, it remained generally unrecognized by the majority of the CC community until this petition began to circulate.
“While it may seem that this is an issue affecting only a small part of the CC community, the support is there and this is clearly the right thing to do,” Teter said.
In its brief lifespan, this online petition received 800 signatures of students and alumni in support of policy change.
“800 signatures – over one third of the size of our student body – is a significant show of support,” Teter said, “My motives were to light a fire under the administration to make sure that students will be covered by next year.”
Whether or not the administration was swayed by the overwhelming support for this petition, their new health plan has become another measure to establish a LGBTQ-inclusive community at CC.
“You can’t retain queer and trans voices without having queer- and trans-inclusive policies.,” Petti said. “We have to embrace them on the most basic level before we can really embrace them in the spirit of deep community.”