This Wednesday, May 14, the Missoula city council met to discuss the 2015 budget and ended up discussing gender reassignment surgery. During the meeting, Council member Caitlin Copple proposed that the city find a way to pay for a transgender benefit package for the city employee health insurance plan.

The proposed package would cover gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. Copple said it was the right thing to do:

"It is something that is really important to me and I think it is something that should be important to all of us at the city, given that we have a non-discrimination ordinance that is the law of the city," Copple said. "It feels pretty hypocritical to me that we don't even offer something what is, you know, unequivocally deemed medically necessary care for transgender employees."

Currently, the city has no known transgender employees, but Copple says that might change if employees have the added coverage.

"Until we offer trans benefits, we're probably not going to have any out trans employees," Copple said. "It's a little bit chicken or the egg."

Copple said that other cities like Seattle and San Francisco had implemented the coverage without seeing a large increase in cost.

"While, yes there usually is an increase of a dollar or two dollars for each person in the plan, usually within two to five years they end up doing away with that fee because trans people are such a tiny minority in the world," Copple said. "It's not like there's going to be a rush on gender reassignment surgeries."

According to City Councilman Jason Weiner, the new coverage may require money from the general fund or an increased tax levy.

"What we can't change in midstream are employee premiums that are part of collective bargaining, but you can fund an additional benefit by taking it out of the fund balance or by increasing the permissive levy that goes to the heal plan," Weiner said

The actual cost of the coverage is difficult to assess because the city’s health insurance plan is self-funded. The final price tag would depend on how many employees use the added coverage.


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