Sexual reassignment surgery for transgendered students will be covered in students’ health care plans, effective this Fall.

Administrators signed a new contract with Duke’s health insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, that will include up to $50,000 to cover sexual reassignment surgery, Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek confirmed. With this new coverage, she said, all vital aspects of transgender health care—counseling, hormone therapy, and surgery—are now included in students’ plans.

“The addition of sexual reassignment surgery with a $50,000 cap makes Duke’s student health care plan one of the most, if not the most, transgender-inclusive plans in the country,” said junior Sunny Frothingham, the incoming outreach chair for Blue Devils United. “This is a huge step forward for Duke.”

Each year, the Student Health Advisory Committee examines the Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan and reviews how students use the plan to determine if changes need to be made to the benefits provided to students, Wasiolek said.

She added that this is the last step in providing complete coverage to Duke’s transgender community.

“For the past several years, we have considered benefits for transgendered students, looking first at counseling and hormone therapy benefits, then at ‘top’ surgery benefits and most recently at ‘bottom’ surgery benefits,” Wasiolek said.

The additional coverage will have a “minimal” impact on cost to students, Wasiolek said. The coverage will cause a 0.3 percent increase to student costs.

Overall, student health care premiums will increase by a total of 8 percent next year, Wasiolek said.

“The plan premium is increasing 8 percent next year, with 4 percent of that increase resulting from taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “The remaining 4 percent is attributed to health care cost trend and benefit enhancements.”

Wasiolek said the $50,000 cap was set after consulting with the standards of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

“Our cap is competitive with or higher than our peer institutions,” said junior Jacob Tobia, president of BDU. “This is really important symbolically for the Duke community. I hope that this will help us remain really competitive as an institution when recruiting students, because I know that in the past we have had transgendered students that have been extremely successful at Duke, including merit scholars.”

Tobia added that this inclusion is one step to further ensure that students spanning the LGBT community feel welcome at Duke.

The updated plan is in line with a Duke Student Government resolution passed in March. The legislation urged the administration to comply with the standards for transgender health as recommended by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and World Professional Association for Transgender Health, all of which have declared that comprehensive health care for transgendered individuals must include mental health care, hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery.

“I am proud of our students for bringing forward this issue and of Duke for making an immediate change to our program,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta.