View of downtown Portland, Ore., from Washington Park.
City employees in Portland, Ore., may have help paying for sex change surgery soon, reports The Oregonian. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/travelportland/Flickr)

If you’re a Portland, Ore., city employee and are considering sex change surgery, Mayor Sam Adams is in your corner, reports Portland Online. Adams has proposed legislation that would compel city health insurance to cover the high cost of the treatment for transgender employees. Portland City Council will vote on the sex change legislation as early as next month.

‘Fair, common sense,’ said Adams

Mayor Adams told The Oregonian newspaper that the transgender surgery bill amounts to “fair, common sense.” If the legislation makes its way into way, it would override the previous year’s city committee decision to veto sex change surgery coverage out of Portland’s self-insurance fund. The denial occurred because the committee could not reach the consensus needed to recommend change to city policy.

According to Adams’ estimates, transgender surgery benefits for Portland city employees would cost around $32,000 per year. The estimated increase to the city’s self-insurance plan budget would be approximately .08 percent.

Covering what is ‘medically necessary’

In 2008, the American Medical Association has identified transgender health care as “medically necessary.” Under the AMA resolution, withholding coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when such treatment has been prescribed by a physician is not allowed.

“As Mayor, it is important to me that we attract and retain the best and brightest employees to the City of Portland,” writes Adams in a press statement. “Covering basic, medically-necessary care is a matter of fairness, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Kaiser or self-insurance

Currently, the City of Portland provides two health insurance options to its employees: insurance through Kaiser or a self-insurance plan called CityCore. If Adams’ proposal is approved, CityCore would cover the gender change surgery, bringing the city’s plan in line with that of 22 percent of Fortune 100 Companies and many Oregon businesses that already cover such a surgery.

Following in the footsteps of San Francisco

In 2001, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to offer transgender surgery benefits. Then-Mayor Willie Brown and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a bill that extended coverage of the sex change operation for city employees, as well as accompanying hormone treatments and related medical needs.

At that time, male-to-female surgery cost $37,000, while the reverse cost $77,000. The San Francisco ordinance capped fees at $50,000 per person for life, requiring the patient to pay 15 percent if the surgeon is on the city health plan.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams at a Portland same-sex marriage rally


Basic Rights Oregon:

Portland Online:

SF Gate:

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