USM Under Fire Over Optional Student Health Insurance Not Covering “Voice Feminization”

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The University of Southern Maine is headed before the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on Monday, Nov. 7 to appeal charges of discrimination because it offered a student from midcoast Maine an optional health insurance plan that did not cover “voice feminization” treatments.

“The University of Maine System has appealed the decision and will appear before the commission on Nov. 7,” Margaret Nagle, interim director of communications for the University of Maine System said in an email.

“UMS does not comment on pending investigations,” she said.

The student who filed the original complaint against USM underwent two cosmetic procedures in 2019, including a chondrolaryngoplasty — the reduction of one’s Adam’s Apple — and “voice feminization” treatments. Voice feminization treatments may include a combination of surgery and speech therapy aimed at eliminating the lowest pitch range of a voice and accentuating the higher pitch range.

Three months after the USM student’s procedures, the insurance plan the student purchased through USM said it would pay for the Adam’s Apple reduction surgery but not the voice feminization treatments, saying that both were cosmetic procedures not covered under the policy, according to News Center Maine.

Topsham attorney Courtney Burne, who serves as an investigator for MHRC, told the commission the actions of the insurance company amount to USM discriminating against the student on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The plan USM offered was entirely optional and would have been available for the student’s inspection before undergoing surgery. But Burne says the college violated Maine’s anti-discrimination laws by failing to offer a plan that did fully cover both cosmetic surgeries.

Left-wing activists, and increasingly some medical practitioners, have labeled cosmetic procedures, like Adam’s Apply reduction surgery, “gender-affirming” and therefore necessary for the health of individuals suffering from gender dysphoria.

According to News Center Maine, the student filed the complaint in Oct. 2020 alleging the discrimination occurred in Aug. 2019.

News Center Maine declined to name the student who complained against USM and also did not name the insurance company in question.

According to an agenda on the MHRC website, the commission will hear a case involving Ann Casavant of Woolwich against USM on Nov. 7.

According to the USM website, the student health insurance broker is A.J. Gallagher. Nagle said in an email that the insurer in question was Anthem Blue Shield Blue Cross.

The USM website lists the average annual cost of its health student insurance plan at $2,663 per year.

Since the complaint was filed, USM has updated its optional student insurance policy to cover “voice feminization” and Adam’s Apple reduction surgery.

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