The commentators at Fox News will love this one.
In 2001, San Francisco became the first city in the country to cover the cost of sex change surgeries for transgender city employees. In 2007, it became the first city in the country to provide health care for all uninsured residents through its Healthy San Francisco program.
Now, San Francisco is combining those firsts into yet another pioneering move by becoming the first city in the country to cover the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for its uninsured residents.
The Department of Public Health has long been on the cutting edge of providing medical care for transgender patients. It established a special clinic for them in 1994 and offers hormone therapy, counseling and primary care services.
But the city’s health regulations excluded coverage for gender reassignment surgeries, and the department hasn’t employed surgeons capable of performing them.
That’s about to change, thanks in large part to advocacy from the city’s Transgender Law Center and Supervisor Scott Wiener, who quietly introduced legislation at the Board of Supervisors over the summer encouraging the health department to remove the exclusion from its code.
“Healthy San Francisco was discriminating against transgender people by denying them medically necessary health care,” Wiener said.
The discrimination was particularly blatant in that the department provides and covers hysterectomies for women with cancer, but not for women who choose to transition to men. Likewise, it provides and covers the removal of testicles for men with cancer, but not for men transitioning to women.
We’ll pause here for two points. One: The resolution at the board passed unanimously, demonstrating what a nonissue this is in San Francisco. Two: We’ve got to give credit to Wiener, also the proponent of a ban on public nudity, for not shying away from legislation that will get him teased because of his name.
The health department didn’t object to the supervisors’ move, and now the Health Commission has made it official by also passing a resolution that the surgeries be covered.
“Providing these services is quite nominal compared to the benefits that would improve this community’s health outcomes, which is pretty much priceless,” said Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung, a transgender woman.
Chung said people who feel like their inner selves don’t match their bodies’ gender are more likely to suffer serious diseases including heart disease, HIV and hepatitis. Helping them transition through surgery, if that’s what they choose, can improve their long-term health outcomes and save the city money overall, she said…