Rahm Emanuel

Emanuel Expands Health Care Benefits to Cover Sex Reassignment Surgeries

The policy change is set to take effect Oct. 1

Sex reassignment surgeries will now be covered under city of Chicago health care plans, thanks to a change in policy announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday.

The policy change, which is set to take effect Oct. 1, removes the exclusion of gender reassignment services from city health care benefits. It only affects non-union employees, but the mayor's office says the city is working with unions to remove the exclusion for their members, too.

After Oct. 1, it will be standard for male-to-female or female-to-male surgical procedures to be covered under city health care plans.

"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. "With this change, Chicago will ensure that transgender city employees are able to receive the medical care that they need." 

The city has not yet outlined which specific procedures will be covered and what the criteria will be for employees to receive the health care coverage. The policy change is expected to be approved by the Benefits Committee on Aug. 11.

When the new policy is in effect, Chicago will be the largest city to cover gender reassignment services for city employees. San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia have also removed the exclusion of transgender services from their health care plans.

Last year, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appeals board ruled that Medicare may no longer exclude sex-reassignment surgeries from coverage.

Several companies in Chicago, including AbbVie Inc., Aon Corp. and Groupon Inc., have also removed the exclusion from their private health care plans.

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