Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Miami Beach city employees will be offered transgender healthcare benefits

 

Transgender Miami Beach city employees will be offered inclusive healthcare benefits, commissioners voted Wednesday.

 
Transgender activist Aryah Lester of Miami Beach
Transgender activist Aryah Lester of Miami Beach
Facebook

srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Beach commissioners Wednesday voted to provide city employees with transgender healthcare insurance, making the Beach one of only 5 percent of all U.S. cities and municipalities to offer the benefit and the first in Florida.

“That’s something that really puts Miami Beach in the forefront in Florida for transgender rights,” said trans-rights activist and resident Aryah Lester. “For that to happen here shows Miami Beach is pushing forward, period, for equality.”

Beginning in October, transgender Miami Beach employees will be insured for treatments including gender-reassignment surgery, hormone and psychological therapy. Voice therapy and cosmetic procedures including hair removal would not be covered.

“It would cover the transition from male to female, female to male,” said Thomas Barker, chairman of Miami Beach’s GLBT Business Enhancement Committee, which lobbied for the insurance. “The commission has directed the city manager’s office to provide transgender healthcare benefits in the next open enrollment.”

Transgender surgeries from 2001 through 2008 in the U.S. cost an average of $10,400 for male to female; $17,000 for female to male, according to Williams Institute at the University of California law school. “These figures are based on 740 male to female surgeries and 430 female to male surgeries, providing an average combined cost of $12,900 per surgery,” according to a commission memo from City Manager Jimmy Morales.

“These healthcare costs aren’t more expensive than pregnancy or cardiac care or any other number of healthcare costs that are expensive but critical,” said Cathryn Oakley of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) of Washington, D.C., the nation’s largest LGBT-rights group.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Joy Malakoff said the entire commission supported the policy change, which passed unanimously. Commissioner Edward Tobin was absent.

“Our city is really pro LGBT. It’s important for us not to be pro LGBT by word, but more importantly by action,” Levine said after the commission meeting. “Miami Beach, we want to make it the most progressive, pragmatic in America. These types of initiatives are part of that vision and our mandate.”

Also Wednesday, Levine sponsored a motion that Miami Beach support same-sex couples seeking to marry or have their out-of-state marriages recognized in Florida.

No other cities in Florida offer transgender healthcare benefits, according to the annual Municipal Equality Index published by HRC. “It’s an elite universe,” said Oakley, HRC’s legislative counsel for state and municipal advocacy, who authors the index.

The report, ranking 291 major American cities, has been published since 2012. Miami Beach was not included in the first two indexes, infuriating LGBT civic leaders. The business enhancement committee completed its own survey this year and self-submitted it. In April, HRC awarded the city a perfect score.

In the first two years of the index, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits were not mandatory for a municipality to receive a perfect score. Beginning in 2014, they will be, Oakley said.

“Which means cities will now be dinged for not having them,” she said.

Now, Miami Beach is on its way to another perfect score.

“It’s something that is so amazing to me. It’s needed and long overdue,” Lester said. “It’s less of a struggle to just live as a person in the community.”

Read more Miami Beach stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK