Student senate talks transgender health insurance

GVL / Emily Frye 
Student senate Vice President of Educational Affairs, Maria Beelen on Nov. 19th.

GVL / Emily Frye Student senate Vice President of Educational Affairs, Maria Beelen on Nov. 19th.

Jess Hodge

A resolution regarding transgender health insurance was brought to the table during Grand Valley State University’s student senate meeting on Jan. 28.

This resolution, written by Andy Bui, asked senators to support the idea of offering a transgender health insurance option for the students at GVSU. It asked for support from the students for “the inclusion of the needs of transgender individuals in the student health insurance plan, which include, but are not limited to, gender confirmation surgery and hormone replacement therapy.”

Many senators voiced their support for the passing of this resolution by saying they think it is a problem at GVSU that should be fixed.

Senator Brandon Fitzgerald was among the supporters, saying this seemed to be needed at GVSU.

“Grand Valley has the highest amount of transgender self-identifying students at any university in the (Midwest),” he said. “(Even) if your ideals or your values might not match or align with those, let’s not think about ourselves but think about the students who do need this and who do need the insurance.”

Following a list of suggestions made in 2013 by the gender identity and expression committee, the health insurance for faculty and staff at GVSU was revised to include those who consider themselves a part of the LGBT community. The list also suggested making students’ health insurance inclusive as well, but it has yet to happen. Bui hopes that by getting student senate’s support behind the document, it will show a need to make student health insurance trans-inclusive.

Vice President for Finance Jeremy Turnbull agreed, saying it would only be equitable for students to have the same opportunity for trans-inclusive health insurance as the faculty and staff does.

“Just because this doesn’t apply to most of us doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue that we should address, because it applies to the students we represent and it isn’t up to us to speak to their health issues,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull is hoping to use transgender health insurance as “both a recruitment and retention tool for students identifying with the LGBTQ community.”

Senator Ben Soltis offered opposition to the resolution because it included no mention of the cost it would add to a student’s bill.

However, many senators urged others to look past the cost, saying it shouldn’t be a deciding factor since this is seen as a much-needed addition to the existing plan.

Bob Stoll, associate dean for student life, was sitting in the gallery and offered up a point of clarification for the senators as well, agreeing that cost was not the main issue at hand. He said it was a “catch-all” policy for students who may find themselves without coverage under their parents’ plan or the Affordable Care Act.

Bui also took some advice from Senator Alan Carter, who suggested putting Bui’s description of transgender people into the resolution. Carter said the description creates a stronger connection from the senators to transgender people and their need to help them in any way.

The resolution will be voted on next week during senate’s general assembly meeting on Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m.