MNsure brings awareness to transgender community on health care - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

MNsure brings awareness to transgender community on health care coverage

MNsure representative goes through how to appeal an insurance decision MNsure representative goes through how to appeal an insurance decision

Health coverage can be a sticky system to navigate, but for the transgender community, it can be maze trying to find a plan that fits.

Thursday night, representatives from MNsure shed some light on issues surrounding health coverage for transgender individuals.

Those who attended the event all had a similar question: what do exchanges cover for them? Yet they all had different stories.The sessions were meant to help transgender individuals navigate the enrollment process and provide some tips for a group that in the past has found the world of health care to be an uphill battle.

MNsure representatives walked through different health care providers and exactly what each one covers.
In Minnesota, Medica, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Health Partners all cover hormone therapy, mastectomy and breast augmentation procedures, as well as genital surgery. But others, such as UCare, can be difficult to understand, since they do not provide clearly published guidelines on medical necessity criteria.
It is this confusion that MNsure wants to help eliminate. Even though many strides have been made in recent years, this issue is not one size fits all. It's a common misconception that transgender individuals desire genital surgery for a complete sex change--yet only 25 percent do, according to statistics. Many seek other forms of transition, like hormones and therapy.

"There are federal guidelines now that regulate whether it was or MNsure that Minnesota chose to go with, that they cannot be excluding things," says Alyssa Lynne, a project coordinator and MNsure navigator for the Minnesota AIDS project. "They can define their medically necessary criteria but they can't be just overall excluding things. So, I think what we're seeing is that a lot of plans are becoming more inclusive."

Oftentimes, it's also difficult for transgender individuals to be transparent with doctors. One attendee tonight said she neglected her health needs for years after hearing the same things from physicians who didn't agree with her own health judgment.

"Mostly it was denial," says Christine Winters. "'There's no way you could be experiencing this symptom because you're a guy.' It's just really hard when you know you're a certain way and the doctor just doesn't agree."

Winters believes there needs to be more understanding that it's not black and white, male or female, but a spectrum for everyone.
Although coverage has improved for those in transition--Lynne tells us awareness plays a huge role and that many people don't know they are eligible for affordable coverage, some with a zero-dollar premium.

MNsure representatives will be on hand at the Rochester Public Library Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to answer questions, as well as schedule appointments to enroll.

Other resources available to the transgender community in the Rochester area include the Southeastern Minnesota Transgender Support Group (SEMT), Outfront Minnesota, Minnesota AIDS Project, Gay Lesbian Community Services of Southeast MN (GLCS), and Minnesota Lavender Bar--all of which cosponsored the event.

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