University needs to include sex-reassignment surgery in student health insurance

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Compared to the other Big Ten schools, the University of Illinois lags behind in transgender inclusiveness. But that could change.

For months, several students on campus, including Stephanie Skora and Illinois Student Sen. Justin Ostrowski, have pushed for transgender inclusivity. Since the Board of Trustees approved a health insurance plan in May for the Chicago campus that would allow for students to elect for sex-reassignment surgery there, the momentum for this campus to have a similar plan has increased.   

Monday on campus, a meeting of the Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee, which comprises the Board’s treasurer and six of its 13 members, will convene to decide health insurance increases for next year. The committee has the power to raise the health insurance fee to include sex-reassignment surgery. 

This is the prime opportunity for the committee to create a culture of inclusivity that students on the Urbana campus want. No, they don’t just want it; they need it.

Skora, president of the Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support and member of the student insurance advisory committee with Ostrowski, joined the committee to advance trans rights on campus. She told The Daily Illini in 2013 that the surgery could save someone’s life. Because of the extreme discontent with a person’s born sex, transgender people are at greater risk of suffering from high levels of anxiety and depression, which lead to suicide. The rate of suicide can be as high as nearly nine times greater than the rest of the population.

Mike Cunningham, the student trustee that represents the Urbana campus and has the official vote, sits on the Board committee that could ultimately decide to add the surgery to the campus health insurance plan. We, as well as students on campus, insist that he and other members of the committee permit students to elect to have the surgery through the campus health insurance plan.

This surgery could save lives. And, it could make our school significantly more accessible to anyone who wants to enjoy what a University of Illinois education can offer. 

Students choose to attend the University to realize some larger academic or professional goal, and this surgery will further guarantee every tuition-paying student has an equal opportunity to do the same.

We don’t expect a fee increase to generate enough money to pay for more than one or two surgeries a year, but the number is not important. It’s that a student even has the opportunity to realize physically who they are. 

If the University is to provide an equal education to all of its students, then all of its students must know they can be their truest selves here. Adding sex-reassignment surgery to the University health insurance plan will bring us all the closer to a better education for everyone.