How I Got a Government Refund For Top Surgery
This is a photo of a cheque I got back in May from Medical Services Plan of British Columbia. Note the description: “reimbursement for gender reassignment surgery.”
How did I get a refund? I asked for it.
Let’s backup to 2007… When I was initially researching surgery, MSP offered limited surgery coverage for trans men. If approved, you could access a total of $1500 towards top surgery, full coverage for hysterectomy, and no coverage for genital reconstruction procedures. Furthermore, there was a wait list of 2-3 years to access the top surgery money. I figured that if I could come up with $4500 within two years, I could probably come up with the total of $6000 that I needed. I was uncomfortable accepting any government money for surgery (my views on this have changed), and so I set my sights on my goal and wound up raising the money in about four months. I had my top surgery in April, 2008.
In 2010, MSP changed their policy and started funding top surgery completely.
This past spring, I happened to notice some comments on a mailing list about MSP and top surgery refunds but details were scant. I contacted the person who fields SRS funding questions at MSP (a helpful and supportive ally for trans folks in BC.) She informed me of the requirements:
- Person must have come through MSP and received a recommendation for the surgery (there may be some exceptions if the person did receive a recommendation independently prior to their surgery, but this would be considered on a case by case basis).
- They must be able to provide proof of payment to Dr. Bowman’s clinic, as well as any quotes or invoices from the clinic.
- The surgery must have taken place prior to July 2010, when the surgical program in Vancouver was established.
I wasn’t certain if I fit the first requirement: I did not go through MSP’s surgical approval process until I went for hysterectomy funding almost a year after my top surgery, and my top surgery assessment was done privately with Dr. Melady Preece. Regardless, she encouraged me to apply. I faxed a cover letter indicating that I was applying for the refund, along with invoices from my surgeon’s clinic and payment receipts.
Three weeks later… I received my refund! The only thing they didn’t refund was the $105 surgeon consultation fee I paid.
I’m not certain what prompted the refunds. It may have been legal fallout of some kind or maybe the flow of BC health policy moving forward. Either way, the refund made a big impact on my log of Transition Expenses, and it came at a great time: I squirrelled away a third of it so that I could attend Gender Odyssey in Seattle (my third conference), paid off some debt, and invested the rest into Trans Media Network.
If you are a BC resident on MSP who paid out of pocket for top surgery before 2010 (and within the last decade or so?), you may be entitled to a full refund! Contact me if you’d like to apply and I can provide you with the contact information for the person at MSP.
A final note on surgery coverage in BC: No, we still don’t have genital reconstruction funding for trans men (trans women do have coverage) but I was told by MSP in April that,
“[MSP is] seeking Ministry approval to add phalloplasty to the list of insured services under MSP, but we are still waiting for final approval from the Minister and Deputy Minister.”
I don’t know how long “final approval” takes at the provincial government level, and an approval is not guaranteed, but this is encouraging!