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:

  1. 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).
  2. They must be able to provide proof of payment to Dr. Bowman’s clinic, as well as any quotes or invoices from the clinic.
  3. 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!

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