- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

URBANA, Ill. (AP) - University of Illinois trustees voted Thursday to add coverage for sex change operations and treatment to the health insurance plan used by many students at the flagship campus.

About 28,000 of the Urbana-Champaign campus’ 40,000-plus students use the insurance. To cover the cost of the sex change coverage, undergraduates next fall will pay $2 more per semester for the insurance, while graduate students will pay $3 more.

Trustees, who govern the three university campuses, added sex change coverage at the Chicago campus last year after some students requested it. The Springfield campus’ insurance plan does not offer such coverage.

Most trustee votes are unanimous and involve little if any discussion, but two of the 10 trustees voted against covering sex change operations.

Dr. Timothy Koritz, the board’s only physician and one of the two trustees who voted against extending the coverage, argued that not all parents or students who pay for the insurance should have to help cover a procedure they might oppose on moral grounds. He also questioned whether it was wise to offer insurance that would enable students as young as 18 to make life-changing decisions that can’t be reversed.

“This type of surgery that’s proposed would result in complete and irreversible sterility,” said Koritz, an anesthesiologist from Rockford. “Having kids is one of the greatest things that can happen in your life. I don’t know if I realized that at age 18 or not.”

Michael Cunningham, the Urbana-Champaign campus student trustee who cast the other no-vote, said he doubted most of his fellow students knew about the vote.

“I would make the argument that 90 percent of this campus has no idea this is being added,” he said. “How can we as a board consider something that hasn’t been properly vetted by the campus?”

Stephanie Skora, the president of the student group Campus Union for Trans Equality, urged the trustees to extend the coverage for the well-being of students who need the surgery.

“Their academic and mental well-being is severely put at risk,” Skora said. “Do the right thing politically, do the right thing morally.”

Some Chicago campus students have taken advantage of the sex change coverage since its plan was extended, said campus spokesman Bill Burton. He said didn’t know exactly how many.

The sex change coverage proposal was approved as part of a larger increase in the cost of student health insurance on all three campuses. Students who don’t have other insurance must purchase the campus insurance, said university system spokesman Tom Hardy.

The semester cost for insurance at the Urbana-Champaign campus will increase by $37, to $291. That 15 percent increase is mostly due to changes required by the federal health care overhaul.

The semester insurance cost on the Chicago campus will increase by $10, to $471, and it will increase by $92, to $410 on the Springfield campus.

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