People Protest At U Of A For Continued Coverage For Transgender Faculty And Staff

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) – People protested at the University of Arkansas on Monday (Feb. 20) over health insurance for transgender faculty and staff.

This comes after the University of Arkansas System started providing health coverage for gender dysphoria for transgender people on January 1st as part of their employee health care plan with treatment including counseling and hormone therapy. On January 23rd, the University suspended that coverage due to an injunction on Affordable Care Act regulations.

“Frankly, I find it horrifying that an institution of higher learning should place such a personal basis against a group of people who just want to be treated like everybody else. They want the same respect, the same responsibility,” Ashley Shock said.

Ashley Shock is a transgender woman and while she isn't a university employee she was at the protest in support of those who are.

“Seeing the U of A when given the option to either take someone and care for them or turn them aside, they turn them aside and that is just disgusting to me,” Shock said.

Christina Bethune said she wants the university to realize trans people deserve the same treatment and respect as everyone else. She said most people don't know about issues that don't affect them.

“I'm hoping this will increase transgender visibility and I think it's important for myself as a transgender woman to come and show that we're here to support each other and show everyone that they're not alone,” Bethune said.

A petition has started on change.org to reinstate these health benefits for U of A system employees. The University System released this statement:

“In compliance with the Affordable Care Act Section 1557 regulations which were issued mid-year in 2016, the University’s health plan scheduled gender dysphoria coverage for implementation on January 1, 2017. On December 31, 2016, the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on the Affordable Care Act regulations covering gender identity. More specifically the injunction prohibits Health and Human Services from enforcing regulations addressing gender identity and the coverage of treatment for gender dysphoria. The frequent changes and uncertainty of the ACA regulations are challenging for both health plans and for plan participants, particularly when dealing with coverage issues such as gender dysphoria which involve a long-term plan of treatment. Given the most current court ruling, the University will suspend gender dysphoria coverage pending the final legal outcome of the injunction or further clarification of the ACA coverage guidelines. However, in accordance with the requirements of the ACA, the plan will cover services received on or before March 6, 2017.”