Kansas Man Able to Get Sex Reassignment Surgery After Blue Cross Changes Name Policy

Charley Osman, a transgender man from Kansas, will reportedly be able to have a sex reassignment surgery covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas after the company changed a policy that required those seeking the surgery to legally change their name before the procedure would be covered.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund brought the concern to the insurance company after Osman was rejected pre-authorization for two surgeries in June.

"Policies are important to ensure we keep costs down and insurance affordable," the company said in a statement. "However, we are constantly reviewing and updating these policies to meet the evolving needs of our members, and this is a good example of that process working."

The organization said in a letter to the insurance company the policy that required name changes before it approved surgeries was outdated, discriminatory and did not meet current legal and medical standards.

The letter also said the surgeries had been deemed medically necessary for Osman by multiple healthcare professionals.

Ezra Cukor, senior staff attorney with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said not all transgender people want to go through the process of legal name changes before their surgeries because they can be expensive and time-consuming, and not be related to the surgeries that can be deemed medically necessary like they were for Osman.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person to go through this, but I want to be sure I'm the last," Osman said in a news release from ACLU Kansas. "This is an incredibly expensive surgery, and for a long time I was afraid I wouldn't be able to have it. I'm very glad Blue Cross Blue Shield changed their policies so that no one else has to go through what I did."

Kansas, Transgender, Sex Reassignment Surgery
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas changed a policy this week that previously required transgender people to legally change their name before the insurance company would approve coverage of a sex reassignment surgery. The view of a Transgender Flag in between two Pride Flags at Christopher Park June 26, 2020 in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

With the policy change, Osman will undergo the surgeries by the end of the year, according to the statement.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas said it makes decisions based on feedback and insights from its members.

"We're glad that BCBS of Kansas stepped up to change this antiquated policy requirement," said Sharon Brett, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas. "This is an important first step toward ensuring that Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas provides care that is inclusive, non-discriminatory, and rooted in clinical standards."

Thomas Witt, executive director for Equality Kansas, the state's leading LGBTQ advocacy group, praised the change.

"Transgender Kansans have struggled for years overcoming disparities in access to health care and insurance," Witt said in a statement. "Today's news signals another step forward for LGBTQ Kansans on our long road to full equality."

The insurance company's new policy lists 18 procedures often associated with gender reassignment that it said are considered cosmetic and will not be covered. Those include such things as breast or calf implants, hair removal, voice modification or chin reshaping.

Brett said the two advocacy groups will continue to work with Blue Cross and Blue Shield Kansas for policy changes to ensure other subscribers are not denied "medically necessary care."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.