PUBLISHED:00:02 EST, 10 November 2012| UPDATED:00:28 EST, 10 November 2012
In just a few days, San Francisco’s legislature will vote on a landmark new bill that if approved would allow city employees to undergo sex change operations on the government’s dime.
The comprehensive new program is part of the city’s universal health plan and is designed to help transgendered individuals who struggle physically and emotionally with their mismatched bodies.
If approved, San Francisco would become the first city to offer such benefits. Minnesota once had a similar program, but the government eliminated it in 1998.
The bill is the product of several members of the city’s legislature, also known as the Board of Supervisors, and the Transgender Law Center. After fighting on behalf of the bill for five years, the city’s Health Commission finally approved the measure on Tuesday.
All that is left is for the full Board of Supervisors to vote on the bill, which will come Monday.
Supporters of the new bill are calling this move a historic step for not just LGBT equality but for civil liberty as a whole. Board Supervisor Mark Leno, founder of the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force he was proud to be voting on this bill.
‘We have transgender people living and working among us,’ Leno said to ABC News. ‘They deserve the same dignity and respect as every other citizen. One way is to make sure the city provides equal benefits for equal work’
Likewise discrimination investigator for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission Marcus Arana said that this measure is what is fair.
“It really is a civil rights issue,” Arana said. “We have an insurance issued that will pay for a hysterectomy in Mary but not in Marcus, and will pay for hormone therapy in Mary but not in Marcus.”
But detractors have called the bill an unaffordable luxury, especially during such an economically uncertain time. This year, San Francisco’s budget has surpassed $7 billion for the first time in history.
“Taxpayers cannot afford this, as there are unintended costs and unintended consequences unrelated to the actual surgery, such as their longer-term hormone treatment, psychology needs and other longer term health issues,” Thomas Moyer, a resident and author of ‘A Conservative Survival Guide to San Francisco’ told Fox News.
To be eligible for coverage under the new program, individuals will have to be employed by the city for at least one year. There is also a $50,000 lifetime cap and a 15 per cent of 50 per cent deductible, which is determined based on whether or not the physician is within the city’s health network.
On average, male-to-female surgeries cost about $37,000, while female-to-male surgeries will cost about $77,000.
The program will also cover hormone treatments but will not fund cosmetic procedures. Employees also must undergo a rigorous medical review process that can take up to six months, and a doctor must deem all procedures medically necessary.