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Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits The Cost of Transgender Health Benefits
Mary Ann Horton, Ph.D.
JPMorgan Chase
Transgender at Work
This paper measures the frequency and cost of Transgender Health Benefits (THBs) for US residents. Itreports on a survey of surgeons who do Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) procedures, and reports thenumber of US residents undergoing SRS in the year 2001. The survey measured the average cost for MTFSRS and for FTM primary surgery (top surgery) in 2001. This cost is compared to the number of insuredUS residents in the 2000 US Census. Nonsurgical costs are calculated empirically, with margins of error.
Total THB cost, and cost per insured, are estimated. Prevalence of SRS among US residents is calculated.
Transgender Health Benefits Cost, Sex Reassignment Surgery Cost, Hormone Cost, Prevalence, DomesticPartner Benefits Cost, Transgender Insurance Cost, Transsexual Insurance Cost.
Submitted for publication to the International Journal of Transgenderism, Copyright 2004 by Mary Ann Horton. All rights reserved. Redistribution by permission only.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 1. Introduction
Many Health Care benefits policies contain an exclusion stating that any benefits related to sex changesurgeryi are excluded from the coverage. Initially, this ban was justified by considering the procedures"Experimental" or "Cosmetic." After over 20 years of routine health care for transsexual people, benefitsare now routinely excluded as "Too expensive." Costs as high as US $75,000 per person are cited asjustification for exclusion. Transgender activists counter that so few people go through the process that theaverage cost per insured is very low.
What would it really cost to provide full or partial medical benefits to transsexual workers? How manypeople do go through this process each year? This study addresses these questions, by measuring theannual number of surgeries (run rate) on US residents, measuring the cost, estimating the nonsurgical cost,and then developing a mathematical model of total THB cost.
2. Background
A person who is Transgender is someone who transgresses gender norms. This can include crossdressers,drag queens, and transsexuals, among others. A very small minority of transgendered individuals feel sostrongly about their self-identification with the opposite sex that they desire to permanently live in thatgender role, often with medical intervention; these few individuals are called transsexuals. Transsexualpeople may transitionii in either direction: those who begin as males and become females are referred to asMale-to-Female (MTF,) and those who begin as females and become males are referred to as Female-to-Male (FTM.) It is the medical costs associated with these individuals that this study is concerned with.
A transsexual person usually begins by seeking the help of a mental health professional (therapist) whomay confirm the finding with a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID.) The GID diagnosis is astandard from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV,) and is generally the beginning of medicaltreatment as a transsexual. Once a GID diagnosis is made, a very strict treatment process must be followed. This process is based on adocument called the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (SOC,) published by the Harry BenjaminInternational Gender Dysphoria Society (HBIGDA, 2001.) The SOC is widely accepted by the medicalprofession as the standard treatment for transsexualism, and is designed to ensure that only those who aretruly transsexual undergo medical intervention. Using the SOC process, the following steps are followed for treatment of GID: A therapist skilled in the field diagnoses GID.
After determining readiness, the therapist writes a letter of recommendation to a qualified MedicalDoctor for appropriate hormone therapy (HRT.) The patient makes regular visits to the MD to prescribe and monitor progression of hormonetherapy.
HRT will take about 2 years to be fully effective. After this period, a lifelong maintenance HRT(at a lower dosage for MTF patients) commences.
The patient works with the therapist to work on issues and plan the transition to living full time inthe opposite gender role.
MTF transsexuals have electrolysis to remove the beard. Sometimes electrolysis is required forFTM transsexuals in the genital area or on a forearm donor site.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits The patient works with the therapist to plan the transition, living full time in the new gender role.
This will involve considerable planning and working with the family, the workplace, and all otheraspects of the person’s life.
The transition occurs, marking the beginning of a Real Life Experience (RLE) of at least one yearafter transitioning to the new gender.
FTM transsexuals have chest reconstruction surgery (mastectomy with chest contouring.) 10. After successful completion of at least 1 year of RLE, the patient qualifies for final evaluation.
11. If the therapist, following the SOC, believes the patient can be helped by genital surgery, s/he will write a letter of recommendation to the surgeon.
12. A second therapist or psychiatrist must also examine the patient and write a letter of recommendation. (One of the two letters must come from a person who holds a Doctorate degree,e.g. an MD in Psychiatry or a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.) 13. The two letters permit the patient to make an appointment with a surgeon. The patient must prepay a substantial deposit on the surgical fee to receive a surgery date.
14. The patient travels to the surgeon's location (often internationally) and undergoes surgery. (MTF patients usually have a single surgery; FTM patients often have 2 or 3 separate surgeries withdifferent specialists.) 15. After completion of surgery, the surgeon writes a letter certifying the completion of genital 16. The patient can now use the surgery letter to update the gender marker on her/his legal documentation (drivers license, birth certificate, Social Security, etc, depending on state laws.) 17. With updated documentation, the patient can now live a normal life.
The process takes at least 1 year, depending on circumstances. During this process, the patient incursmany medical costs, often not covered by health insurance.
Office visits to the therapist. These may be covered by a Mental Health plan, or may be excludedfrom some plans.
Office visits to the MD for hormones and lab tests. These are usually billed as standard officevisits, often quarterly. Blood work to monitor hormone levels occur at least once a year.
Pharmaceutical costs for hormones. These are the same US FDA approved drugs used forHormone Replacement Therapy (HRT, estrogen and progesterone), blood pressure(spironolactone) or testosterone (hormone imbalance.) Electrolysis costs (MTF only.) The electrolysis industry is never reimbursed by insurance, and isconsidered cosmetic by the US tax organization (IRS.) For this reason, we do not includeelectrolysis costs in this study. The patient must, nonetheless, pay for hundreds of hours ofelectrolysis, costing $50-$100/hour.
The surgery itself, which must be prepaid.
3. Surgical Procedures
3.1 Male-to-Female
Surgical procedures for the Male-to-Female transsexual patient include medically necessary procedures
and, optionally, cosmetic procedures.
Male-to-Female medically necessary procedures usually include: Orchidectomy (removal of the testicles,) Penectomy (removal of the tissue inside the penis,) Vaginaplasty (creation of a vagina, using the skin of the penis as the lining of the vagina,) Labiaplasty (formation of the labia from the scrotal tissue.) Surgical techniques vary, but these four procedures are usually performed at the same time, and arecollectively known as Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS.) These procedures are required to obtain asurgical letter, needed to authorize change of legal documents.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Cosmetic procedures for the Male-to-Female may include breast augmentation (implants,) tracheal shave(to remove the Adam's apple,) facial feminization surgery (to reshape the bones and hairline in the face.)There is currently no successful surgery available to change the voice. The patient may need to consultwith a speech therapist to achieve a suitable female voice.
3.2 Female-to-Male
Female-to-Male medically necessary procedures may include:
Mastectomy (Top Surgery, often performed by a specialist who will create a normal male chest,) Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy (removal of the uterus and ovaries,) Metoidioplasty (clitoral release, the severing of a ligament to reposition the clitoris as a smallpenis,) Phalloplasty (formation of a penis by skin grafting, often from the forearm or abdomen.) Of these procedures, Mastectomy is required, Hysterectomy is sometimes indicated, and either theMetoidioplasty or Phalloplasty (almost never both) is occasionally performed. The results of theMetoidioplasty or Phalloplasty are, with current surgical techniques, sometimes unsatisfactory, and the vastmajority of FTM patients choose, for medical or aesthetic reasons, not to undergo either procedure. Thesurgeries are usually performed by specialists in the respective procedures.
4. Cost Concerns
For an individual patient, these costs can be a hardship. If they are covered by health insurance, themonthly premium costs and co-pays are significant. Many patients pay premiums and must also pay thefull cost of their medical needs, because their insurance plan excludes coverage for anything related totranssexualism.
Employers and Insurers face rapidly escalating medical costs. As employees pay an increasing share ofthese costs, they voice their concerns about high costs. As a result, there are increased efforts to keep costsdown, and any proposal to add coverage is carefully scrutinized. Insurers have expressed concern that, ifmedical benefits are covered, transsexual workers will be attracted to companies offering the benefits, andthe usage will skyrocket. (This is sometimes called "the magnet effect.") When an insurance claim is submitted, the approval process usually includes verification that the treatmentis eligible for coverage. Procedures usually must be considered "medically necessary." There are varyingstandards for what constitutes medical necessityiii but the insurance administrator, not the doctor, usuallymakes the decision. Even when a health plan does not contain a specific exclusion of transsexual benefits,the insurer often denies the claim, stating that it is not medically necessary. The HBIGDA SOC states"Such a therapeutic regimen, when prescribed or recommended by qualified practitioners, is medicallyindicated and medically necessary." A related health benefits issue is the provision of Domestic Partner Benefits (DPBs.) These benefits aresimilar to coverage of a spouse or dependent, and are generally seen as a Diversity benefit to show supportof unmarried couples, especially gay and lesbian couples who are not legally able to marry. DPBs extendbenefits to same sex couples that are similar to those extended to opposite-sex couples, under the principlethat all employees performing equal work should receive equal compensation, including equal benefits.
Domestic Partner Benefits carry a cost, estimated at an increase of 1%. Even with this additional cost, 42%of employers surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign offer DPBs. (HRC, 2004) Similarly, denial of mental health, hormonal, and surgical benefits to transsexuals, when these sameprocedures are covered for other workers, represents a different level of coverage for transgenderedworkers. This paper will show that the overall cost of providing Transgender Health Benefits isconsiderably less than the cost of providing Domestic Partner Benefits.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 5. Previous Work
“The question is often asked: how many transsexuals are there?” This is not an easy question to answer,because sex reassignment is usually quietly handled. Many estimates of prevalence have been made. Mostare based on experience rather than data.
The costs charged by surgeons are well known. Prices of well known surgeons can be found on their websites, or the web sites of transgender resources. They range from $4,500 to $26,000 for MTF surgeries,and from $4,000 to $60,000iv for FTM surgeries.
The cost of THB coverage will depend on both the prevalence and the average cost per patient. Estimatesof cost have primarily come from the insurance industry. With little actuarial data to base estimates on,estimates have been markedly conservative.
5.1 Prevalence of SRS
Prevalence is defined as “the number of people in a given population affected with a particular disease orcondition at a given time”. The prevalence of SRS is less well known. Many estimates have been made,few based on experimental data. Estimates often focus on the prevalence of GID: “What fraction of thepopulation is transsexual?” or of SRS: “What fraction of the population has SRS at some point in theirlifetime?” The DSM-IV (1994) states, "Data from smaller countries in Europe with access to total population statisticsand referral suggest that roughly 1:30,000 adult males and 1:100,000 adult females seek sex-reassignmentsurgery." Conway (2002) stated that these figures were based on (Walinder, 1967) in Sweden.
The Janus Study (1993) found that 6% of males and 3% of females have personally cross-dressed. TheJanus question is asked in the context of variant sexual practices, and would appear to include the entirescale of transgendered people, from post-operative transsexuals to those who have only dressed as theopposite sex for Halloween.
Another study, (van Kesteren, 1996,) found the prevalence of transsexualism in the Netherlands to be1:11,900 (MTF) and 1:30,400 (FTM.) This is based on the number of patients receiving treatment in thecountry.
Richard Green (1999) gave the incidence of transsexualism at 1:30,000 FTM and 1:10,000 MTF.
Conway (2001) estimated prevalence of MTF SRS in the US, by estimating the number of surgeries eachyear and summing over the past several decades. She estimated that 1:2500 Americans born male iscurrently a post-operative transsexual, and that at least 1 in 500 Americans born male has GID. Sheestimates the incidence of transsexualism (the number of people to transition from male to female eachyear) at 1:10,000 to 1:20,000, based on a 20 to 40 year career. Conway does "sanity checks" with othermethods of calculation. Based on an estimated annual surgical count of 1500 to 2000 and an annual malebirth rate of 2,000,000, she estimates lifetime prevalence of SRS at 1:1333 to 1:1000, that is, as many as1:1000 people will have SRS sometime during their lives.
Others have made estimates, based upon personal experience. Conway summarizes many of theseestimates. These include: Number of Hijra in India: estimated at 1:375.
Number of transsexuals "living as women" (without surgery) in Malaysia, estimated at 1:820.
SRS in the U.K., estimated at 1:3750, and of transsexualism, 1:750.
Katheoys in Thailand, estimated at 1:167.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 5.2. Experience with Employers
Some employers have decided to include full THB coverage for their employees, including surgery. We
have a few years of experience to see what their costs were.
Lucent provided coverage beginning in 2000. Originally with about 150,000 employees, Lucent has
downsized and spun off most of its work force, and has about 33,000 employees as of 12/31/2003. There
has been much publicity of Lucent's benefits in the transgender community. During this interval, Lucent
paid for one MTF surgery in 2000 (Lucent's 80% share was "just over $11,000") and one MTF surgery in
2003 (Lucent's share was $8290.) A third Lucent employee had MTF SRS in 2002 and chose to fund the
surgery herself rather than deal with insurance process.
Avaya is a 2001 Lucent spin-off with about 40,000 employees. There have been no claims for surgery
during the period through 2003.
San Francisco
The City of San Francisco published a paper (SF HRC, 1997) stating the case for THBs for City
employees. They estimated costs for surgery from $7,500 to $36,000 for MTF transsexuals, and $4,000 to
$75,000 for the combination of FTM surgeries, including surgeon, anesthesia, and hospitalization fees.
Hormone therapy was estimated to average $250/year for either sex. They stated that of 27,000 city
employees, 12 were known to be transsexual.
In 2001, San Francisco added restricted THBs for city employees. At the time, they estimated that 17 oftheir 37,000 employees were transgender, and that 35 employees would use the benefit in its first year.
(No explanation is given for this discrepancy.) (Dozetos, 2001.) Employees had to have 1 year of cityemployment to be eligible, and had a $50,000 lifetime benefit cap. They set the additional cost at$1.70/month/employee, or about $750,000 per year total cost to the city. Because of the culture ofacceptance in the San Francisco area, there is thought to be a higher density of transgendered residents inthe city than in other large cities in the United States. If ever a claim could be made that an employerwould be a magnet for transsexuals seeking surgery, San Francisco would be expected to see the effect.
In 2004, actual claim data was made available. In 3 years, there were 7 claims for surgery, totaling$150,000, or $50,000/year, not including costs for therapy or hormones. The city has lowered its charge to$.85/month/employee, raised its lifetime cap to $75,000 removed the 1 year employment requirement, andoffered the benefit on every health plan offered to its 30,000 employees. One can calculate that $.85 permonth for 30,000 employees adds up to about $300,000 per year to fund the benefits. The anticipatedpayout may increase from the initial experience, due to the reduced waiting period and increased cap.
(Green, 2004.) Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 6. Methodology
The goal of this study was to create a credible estimate of the total cost of THBs per insured person.
Surgical costs were measured by counting the total number of surgeries in one year and calculating theaverage cost per surgery. Nonsurgical costs were estimated by assuming standard treatments and standardcosts for these treatments, then multiplying by the estimated number of patients undergoing each treatment.
Total costs were summed, and then divided by the number of insured US residents.
Persons desiring irreversible surgical procedures who value the quality of the result will usually go to asurgeon who has performed the procedure many times previously. It is known within the transgendercommunity that the vast majority of transsexuals seeking surgery go to one of a relatively short list ofsurgeons for their final surgery. Most surgeons who routinely practice this type of surgery belong toHBIGDA. In the fall of 2001, there were 43 individual surgeons and 12 clinics that belonged to HBIGDA.
Of these, by reputation, the vast majority of US transsexuals went to one of 15 surgeons. (Some of thesesurgeons are in the US, and many of them are not.) This study refers to these 15 surgeons as majorsurgeons.v The author sent a survey in 2002 to all surgeons who were listed as members in HBIGDA. This surveyinquired about all surgeries performed by the specific surgeon in the calendar year 2001. Questions weredesigned to support calculation of the run rate (total number of procedures performed annually), and theaverage cost per patient. The percentage of patients who are US residents was requested. The data wasadjusted to apply only to US residents, and compared to available US census data. The percentage of theUS population who undergo SRS each year (prevalence of SRS) was then calculated.
SRS is a once-in-a-lifetime event for any given transsexual patient. It was important to count each patientexactly once, in order to accurately estimate the run rate. To this end, we defined the concept of a primarysurgery. This is a surgery that can occur only once in any given patient, no matter how many follow-ups,corrections, reversals, or cosmetic surgeries are done. In addition, the primary surgery must be a procedurethat is required, that must be performed for SRS to be considered complete.
For MTF patients, we defined the primary surgery to be the penectomy (removal of the penis.) Thisprocedure is always accompanied by a vaginaplasty, but in case of complications, a second vaginaplastymay be indicated. Only one penectomy is possible for any one patient. The cost of the MTF primarysurgery measured was the cost of penectomy, orchidectomy, vaginaplasty, and labiaplasty combined, andincluded surgical, hospital, and anesthesiologist fees.
For FTM patients, we defined the primary surgery to be the mastectomy. The various bottom surgeries(hysterectomy, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty) are not always indicated, but almost every FTM patient willundergo a single top surgery. The cost of the FTM primary surgery measured was the cost of themastectomy and chest reconstruction, and included surgical, hospital, and anesthesiologist fees.
The specific questions are shown in Appendix A. They may be summarized as follows: How many MTF primary surgeries did you do in 2001? What was the total cost of the surgeries? What fraction of the surgeries was done on US residents? How many FTM primary surgeries did you do in 2001? What was the total cost of the surgeries? What fraction of the surgeries was done on US residents? After a two-month interval, follow-up letters were sent to the major surgeons who had not yet responded.
All major surgeons who had not responded were again contacted, until it was clear there would be nofurther responses.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits After tabulating the data, estimates for the major surgeons who did not respond were made, based on otheravailable information. For example, many surgeons' prices are well known or on their web sites. Run rateswere estimated by former patients who interacted with the staff for the 1-2 week period during theirsurgery.
Combining the surgical data with US Census data (Census, 2000,) it is possible to estimate the fraction ofthe US population who had SRS in the year 2001, and the average surgical cost for primary procedures.
Female-to-Male "bottom surgeries" (hysterectomy, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty) were estimated. Theaverage prices for each procedure were calculated from public and survey data. By interviewing a subjectmatter expert, estimates were made of the fraction of FTMs who undergo each procedure. The averagecost of each procedure was applied to the appropriate fraction of the total FTM population.
Additional (nonsurgical) costs can be estimated by applying standard rates. For example, the drug costs forhormone therapy, and the cost for office visits to therapists and physicians are easily estimated. Costs andprevalence for FTM bottom surgeries are more difficult to estimate, but ranges can be used to place boundsaround the total costs.
Total costs can then be estimated by adding (separately for MTF and FTM populations) Total doctor’s office visit costs in support of hormones These costs can be divided by the run rates for MTF and FTM primary surgeries, resulting in average costper surgery. Nonsurgical per-patient costs were then determined using known regimens and costs. Since manytranssexuals have therapy or hormones without proceeding to surgery, the run rates for each procedure willbe different. Nonsurgical run rates could be estimated in proportion to the surgical run rates. The run ratesand per-patient costs for each type of treatment (mental health therapy, hormones, doctor’s office visits insupport of hormones, surgery) can be combined to estimate the total THB cost for US residents. The costscan be divided by the number of insured US residents to determine the cost per insured.
The range of error in this type of study is difficult to measure. The approach used here is to placeboundaries around each estimate, using the most optimistic and most pessimistic possible assumptions.
Ranges can then be calculated using these boundaries, to establish a range from the minimum cost scenarioto the maximum cost scenario. The results of these calculations shows that the actual value for each costlies somewhere between the two calculated extremes, and that the values calculated using the bestestimates available are between these two extremes.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 7. Surgical Data
The data received from the surveys are summarized in this section. First, the raw data as received is
summarized. This raw data contained a few errors and omissions that were correctable. The second
section describes the reconstruction process and the data after reconstruction.
7.1 Raw Surgical Data
For reasons of confidentiality, specific surgeons are not listed in this paper. Rather, the aggregate totalsonly are given here. 55 Surveys were sent out in 2002 to all surgeons and clinics listed in the HBIGDA membership directory.
Responses were received from 15 surgeons. Of the 15 major surgeons, usable responses were receivedfrom 12, including 3 surveys from major surgeons with correctable errors. One major surgeon did notrespond, one responded with an unusable survey, and one declined to participate.
The correspondence with the surgeons whose surveys contained errors (or their office staff) permitted thecorrection of some surveys. As a result, 12 of 15 major surgeons, or 80%, provided usable data for thisproject. Two surveys were returned by surgeons who were not on the list of major surgeons. One of theseprovided MTF data for the study; one provided both MTF and FTM data.
The 14 valid surveys (a 25% usable response rate) represented 866 MTF surgeries performed by 10surgeons, and 336 primary FTM surgeries (top surgery or mastectomy) performed by 10 surgeons. 7 of the14 surgeons performed both MTF and FTM surgeries, 3 MTF only, and 4 FTM only. (Of the 12 majorsurgeons with usable surveys, 3 do MTF, 3 do FTM, and 6 do both.) Partial data was also provided for FTM "bottom surgeries." One Ob/Gyn surgeon (the “Other FTM-only”surgeon) reported performing 3 hysterectomies and no mastectomies. (Most FTM transsexuals go to aregular Ob/Gyn for a hysterectomy, not to a transgender specialist.) 6 surgeons are known to performmetoidioplasties, 3 providing data totaling 15 surgeries on US residents. 4 surgeons provided data aboutphalloplasties, and 5 others are believed to perform them. For purposes of this study, only those whoperform significant numbers of primary surgeries were counted as major surgeons.
Dollar figures given were incomplete. Because some patient counts did not have costs attached, this datarequired reconstruction to be useful. Raw MTF dollar figures for primary surgeries averaged $7,877,representing 471 patients. Raw FTM dollar figures averaged $13,027, representing 112 patients. Forbottom surgeries on US residents, 16 metoidioplasties cost an average of $10,481, and 10 phalloplasties onUS residents cost an average of $23,743, The surgeons estimated the percentage of their clients who were US residents. 624 of 866 MTF patients,or 72%, were US residents. 294 of 336 FTM patients, or 87%, were US residents.
Specialties of Surgeons
Number of Surveys
Resp Rate
Returned by Major Surgeons
Sent to Major Surgeons
Returned by Other Surgeons
Sent to Other Surgeons
Returned (Total)
Sent (Total)
Table 1: Number of Surveys Sent and Returned
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 7.2 Reconstructed Surgical Data
In informal interviews of transgendered US residents considering surgery, and of subject matter experts,the same surgeons names come up repeatedly. We therefore believe that the major surgeons account fornearly all the surgeries performed on US residents. We estimate that 95% of MTF patients go to a majorMTF surgeon, and 75% of FTM patients go to a major FTM surgeon. It is believed to be more likely thatan MTF will go to a major surgeon, because the MTF procedure is highly specialized. While a specializedchest surgery is seen by many as important, it is also possible for an FTM transsexual to get an ordinarymastectomy.
In some cases, surveys were returned but incorrect or incomplete. For major surgeons, we filled in theblanks with estimates believed to be accurate. Methods used to correct or complete surveys include: Asking the surgeon or their office staff to clarify the data.
Calculating a total cost by multiplying the cost of the procedure and the number of patients.
Using published costs from the surgeon's web page.
Percentages of US Residents were filled in based on average percentage of other surgeons.
Major surgeons who did not provide data were estimated based on their published price and theestimates of volume by former patients.
Other surgeons who did not respond were considered part of the extrapolated percentage that arenot included in the measured data.
These methods made it possible to arrive at a total counted number of primary surgeries in 2001, and agood estimate of the total costs for the primary surgery. Multiplying by the percentage of US residents gives a good estimate of the total number and costs ofprimary surgeries for US residents. Dividing by the extrapolation percentage (95% and 75%) gives anestimate of the total volume and cost of primary surgeries.
Including costs for FTM bottom surgeries (hysterectomy, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty) is more difficult.
The estimates made here are based on interviews with a subject matter expert in the FTM community, andshould be considered less precise than measured data. We know how much the bottom surgeons charge,but we can only estimate how many FTM transsexuals choose the different bottom surgeries. Also, anyqualified surgeon may do hysterectomies, so they are impractical to count directly. We do know, however,the actuarial costs for hysterectomies, and we can estimate the fraction of FTM patients undergoing chestsurgery who also undergo the various bottom surgeries.
Subject matter experts estimate that 50% have a hysterectomy (at average cost of about $15,000,) 5% havea Metoidioplasty (averaging about $7,400) and 6% have a Phalloplasty (averaging about $20,000.) Thisresults in an estimate of 250 hysterectomies totaling $3,750,000, 25 metoidioplasties totaling $185,000,and 30 phalloplasties totaling $600,000, for a total cost of $4,535,000 or about $9,100 per FTMtranssexual.
The Table 2 summarizes the reconstructed totals based on the survey and the reconstruction techniquesabove. Totals are separated into Male-to-Female and Female-to-Male categories. (Note: numbers shouldonly be considered significant to 2 digits.) Surgical Data
countedExtrapolated Total Primary Surgeries Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Average cost per Surgery
Number of Primary Surgeries on US
Table 2: 2001 Surgical Frequencies and Costs
US residential numbers are based on the 2000 US Census, eligibility is based on birth sex (e.g. those bornmale are the population eligible for MTF surgery.) US 2000 Census Data
Number of eligible US residents with
Ratio of US Residents having Surgery
in 2001: 1 in …Ratio having SRS in 47 year adulthood: Table 3: US 2000 Census Data
The data here shows that the run rate of SRS among US residents in 2001 was about 800 MTF and 430FTM, for a total of 1,230. The average cost was about $10,700 for MTF patients and $17,900 for FTMpatients, with a weighted average of about $13,000 per patient. If all of these patients are covered byinsurance, this places the prevalence of SRS per year at 1:142,000 (about 1:107,000 MTF and 1:204,000FTM.) About 1 in 3,000 US residents will have SRS at some time during their adult lifetime.
8. Nonsurgical Costs
If we include nonsurgical treatment costs, we can create a more complete picture of total costs for THBs.
These nonsurgical costs include mental health, hormones, and doctor office visits and lab tests in supportof hormones. According to (SOC) these treatments are considered medically necessary by HBIGDA.
We do not consider the costs of cosmetic treatments. Cosmetic treatments include electrolysis, breastaugmentation surgery, tracheal shave, facial feminization surgery, and similar treatments.
The approach taken here is to build on the surgical data in the previous section and the known cost perpatient of standard nonsurgical treatment. If we estimate the fraction of transsexuals who have SRS, andwe know the SRS run rate, we can estimate the prevalence of GID. If we then estimate the fraction ofthose with GID who use each nonsurgical treatment, we can determine the run rate for these treatments.
Combining the run rates with the cost of treatment of a typical patient, we can estimate the total cost.
8.1 Frequency of Nonsurgical Treatment
Estimates of costs of the nonsurgical treatments can be made based on well known costs of typicaltreatments. Since not all transsexuals need every treatment, we can estimate total volume based onassumptions about treatment rates.
We begin with the assumption that not every transsexual has surgery, but rather some who have GenderIdentity Disorder will transition to living full time in the new gender role, may or may not have therapy, Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits may or may not have HRT, and may or may not have surgery. Since those who do not transition cannothave surgery, we consider the THB needs of the population who do transition. We estimate the fraction ofthose who transition that have therapy, that have HRT, and that have surgery. By knowing the numberswho have surgery and the fractions of those who transition have therapy, HRT, and surgery, we cancalculate the number who transition, and from that number we can calculate the number who have therapyand who have HRT.
We first estimate the fraction of transsexuals who transition that do have the surgery (we estimate 20%MTF and 80% FTMvi.) Then we extrapolate from the number of surgeries (807 surgeries is 30% of 2690transitions, for example.) Knowing the number of transsexuals, we can then estimate the rates of therapyand hormone usage. (Assuming 90% of MTFs who transition have therapy, 90% of 2690 is 2421 that havetherapy.) These percentage estimates are based on empirical observations by subject matter experts, butnot on scientifically collected data.
This is summarized in Table 4. If the percentage estimates are accurate, there are about 4,573 people whotransition each year, and about 85% of them, or 3,887, will begin mental health therapy each year.
Similarly, 89%, or 4,070, will begin HRT each year, requiring both hormones and doctor’s office visits tomonitor their usage.
Number of Surgeries each year
Percentage of Transsexuals
having Primary Surgery
Number of Transsexuals
Transitioning each year
Percentage of Transsexuals
having Therapy
Percentage of Transsexuals
having HRT
Table 4: Nonsurgical Cost Estimates
8.2 Mental Health Therapy
A typical patient will begin the process with therapy from a mental health provider. Today’s transsexual
usually already understands the need to transition, permitting the therapist to focus on practical issues.
Hormones are often prescribed in the first few visits, and the course of therapy typically lasts one year. We
assume an average patient will undergo minimal therapy prior to transition and spend one year from
transition to surgery (in accordance with the one year Real Life Experience described in the SOC.) Patients
have a wide range of needs, ranging from 2 or 3 sessions (for someone who has already transitioned and is
functioning well in their new gender role) to as many as 20 sessions over the course of a full year. We
assume a rate of $125/hour for 4 clinical sessions per year, plus group sessions or support groups totaling
$250. A second evaluation for the second letter required for SRS is estimated at a negotiated group rate of
$150. Many patients complete the program in a year, but we add an additional 3 months of therapy (a total
of 15 months) to represent those who take longer. This results in a total treatment cost at $1,088 per
If 90% of the MTF patients and 50% of the FTM patients transitioning in the USA each year seek therapy,averaging 1.25 years of treatment, there will be about 3,900 patients in therapy, at a total cost of $3.51million, or $.03 per insured.
Cost of Therapy per session
(assume out of network)
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Number of sessions per year per
Additional Therapy cost/year

(group sessions)
Second evaluation for SRS letter

Therapy cost beyond first year
Total cost of Therapy per patient
Number of patients in year 1 of
Total Therapy cost (millions)

Table 5: Mental Health Therapy Cost
As shown by Table 5, we can estimate that about 3,900 patients enter therapy for GID each year, costing anaverage of $1,088 each. The total expense for US residents for GID therapy is therefore about $4.24million each year.
8.3 Hormones
A typical patient will begin hormones on a low dose, gradually increasing the dose to a maximum level in
preparation for surgery. After surgery, the hormone dose is reduced to a low maintenance level, which
may continue for life. We assume 2 years of hormones before surgery, with years 3 and on having the
maintenance level. The regimens are different for MTF and FTM patients.
MTF patients will take estrogen in increasing doses, an anti-androgen in steady or increasing doses, andoptionally may take a progesterone. We assume a typical path based on Premarin, Spironolactone, andPrometrium. In the first year, the Premarin dose gradually increases from .625 mg/day to 3.75 mg/day, thedosage of Spironolactone remains steady at 100 mg/day, for a total cost of $882 vii. In the second year, weassume 5 mg/day of Premarin, 100 mg/day of Spironolactone, and 200 mg/day of Prometrium, costing atotal of $2,376 .
MTF patients who have completed surgery no longer require large doses of estrogen or anti-androgen.
MTF patients who choose not to have surgery will usually reduce their dosage after 2 years, because thedesirable changes from hormones occur during the first 2 years. In either case, a lower lifetimemaintenance level of hormones is typical. In years 3 and on, we assume a maintenance dose of 1.25 mg ofPremarin, costing $382 .
FTM patients are assumed to have a simpler regimen of 1.0 to 2.0 cc of injectable Depo-Testosterone every2 weeks, costing about $229/year. We assume this is a constant cost and does not change over the lifetimeof the patient.
Transsexuals usually transition as adults. If we assume the age of transition may range from 18 to 65, thereare 47 possible years for the transition to occur, and maintenance costs will begin in year 3 of the transition(age 20 to 65) and continue to age 65. (After age 65, we assume Medicare is the primary insurer, so we donot consider patients over 65 here.) If we assume the 3,632 patients who begin HRT each year are evenlydistributed from age 18 to 65, a 47 year span, about 1/47 will be age 18, 1/47 will be age 19, etc. After 2years of transition HRT, those in maintenance will range from age 20 through age 65. Thus, there will beabout 1/47, or 77 of the patients age 20 in maintenance, 154 age 21, 231 age 22, and so on up to 3,465patients age 65. The total number on maintenance therapy in a given year can be calculated as the area of atriangle: 45*46/2 = 1035, times the 77 who transition annually at each age. This works out to about 79,980patients who are in maintenance HRT at any time, assuming 47 years of transsexuals entering the system.
(In practice, the current number is probably smaller because SRS has only become routine in the last 20years.) We consider the transitional (years 1 and 2) and maintenance (years 3 and up) costs separately. Insuranceplans may or may not cover transitional HRT, but most currently cover maintenance HRT.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits We can estimate as shown in Table 6.
(millions)Number of patients in year 3+ of combined
Cost per patient: HRT (combined)
Total Cost: HRT (millions)
Total HRT cost per insured
Table 6: HRT Cost
Transitional HRT costs (prior to surgery) are $11.81 million/year or $0.083 per insured. Maintenance HRTcosts (after surgery or after 2 years) are $31.92 million/year or $0.225 per insured. Total HRT costs areabout $43.72 million/year or $0.31 per insured. About ¾ of HRT costs are maintenance costs, currentlycovered on most insurance plans because the patient is considered to be in their new gender.
8.4 Doctor’s visits in Support of Hormones
A patient undergoing hormone treatment should see a doctor on a regular basis to monitor the hormones’
effects, and to have blood tests taken to monitor hormone levels. The SOC recommend lab tests at onset
(as a baseline,) at 6 months, 12 months, and every 12 months thereafter for both MTF and FTM patients.
Hormones are usually prescribed by an endocrinologist or by an internist or family practitioner that is
experienced in the treatment of transsexuals. Quarterly office visits are the norm during the transition,
changing to semiannual visits after the regimen levels off. These office visits and lab tests are referred to
below as HRT MD.
Office visit charges are estimated at $65 per visit (a typical negotiated insurance rate.) The lab tests forblood hormone levels are estimated at $125 each. This will mean typical costs of $510 in the first year (2labs and 4 visits,) $385 in year 2 (1 lab and 4 visits) and $255 in subsequent years (1 lab and 2 visits.) We can apply the same age-related methodology as for Hormones, to the HRT MD cost. We consider thetransitional (years 1 and 2) and maintenance (years 3 and up) costs separately. Insurance plans may or maynot cover transitional HRT office visit and lab costs, but most currently cover maintenance HRT officevisit and lab costs.
These costs are as shown in Table 7.
(millions)Number of patients in year 3+ of Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits (combined)
Total Cost: HRT MD (millions)
Total HRT MD cost per insured
Table 7: HRT Doctor’s Visit Cost
Transitional HRT MD costs (prior to surgery) are $3.60 million/year or $0.025 per insured. MaintenanceHRT MD costs (after surgery or after 2 years) are $22.81 million/year or $0.161 per insured. Total HRTMD costs are $26.41 million/year or $0.19 per insured. About 86% of HRT MD costs are maintenancecosts, currently covered on most insurance plans because the patient is considered in the new gender.
8.5 Total Nonsurgical Costs
Adding the therapy, HRT, and HRT MD costs, total nonsurgical costs can be summarized as shown inTable 8. (millions)Total annual nonsurgical cost per Table 8: Total Nonsurgical Costs
This table shows that the total cost for nonsurgical THBs is about $74.37 million, or 52¢ per insured. Mostof the cost is for hormones and their associated doctor’s office visits. About 74% is for maintenance HRTand HRT MD costs, and 26% is for therapy, HRT, and HRT MD for the transsexual currently engaged inthe transition process.
9. Prevalence
There has been much speculation about the prevalence of transsexualism. With the knowledge of theannual run rate, we can calculate prevalence of SRS.
If the run rate is 1229 surgeries/year (MTF+FTM) and the population of adult US residents was 174million in 2000, the frequency of SRS per year among adult US residents is about 1:142,000 (about1:204,000 MTF and 1:141,000 FTM.) That is, about 0.0007% of the population has SRS each year.
Assuming the SRS rate has increased linearly from a few in 1960 to the current rate of 1229/year, therehave been about 26,000 primary surgeries on US residents since 1960. Based on the US Census death rateof 8.5/1000 each yearviii, about 88.5% of these, or 23,000, are still alive. This means that roughly 1 in7,600, or .013%, of adults alive in the US today (1 in 5,800 women and 1 in 11,000 men) is a post-operative transsexual.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits If we assume the run rate will continue at the 2001 rateix, and observe that a transsexual can have a primarySRS surgery only once in a lifetime, that SRS may occur any time from age 18 to 65. (We are notconsidering those who have SRS after age 65.) During this 47 year period, if 807 US males have MTFSRS each year, in 47 years 37,934 will have had surgery by their 65th birthday, or 1 in 2283. If 20% ofthose who are diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (e.g. who are transsexual) ever have SRS, it means1 in 457 people born male have GID. FTM and combined ratios can be calculated in the same way, asshown in Table 9: Total (%)
No of SRS in 2001
Frequency of SRS/year: 1:…
# Live Post-Ops
Ratio Post-Ops/Person
Prevalence of SRS 1:…
Prevalence of GID 1:…
Rounded Prevalence
Table 9: Prevalence of SRS in the year 2001 among US residents.
In other words, in a company with 100,000 employees, 50,000 men and 50,000 women, about oneemployee will have MTF surgery every 2 years, and one employee will have FTM surgery every 4 years.
The female work force includes about 9 post-operative MTF transsexuals, and the male work forceincludes about 4 or 5 post-operative FTM transsexuals. The total work force in the company includesabout 33 people, or .03%, who have had or will have SRS during their adult lifetime and another 90, or .
12%, who may be transsexual but will not have SRS.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 10. Limit Analysis of Costs
In arriving at the above best estimates, it was necessary to impute values that were not directly measured.
To better understand the margin for error, each of these estimates was examined, to assess the practicalrange of values. Boundaries were set for each estimate, beyond which the estimated value could notreasonably reach. For example, major surgeons who did not respond to the survey could not haveperformed fewer than zero primary surgeries, and could not reasonably have performed more suchsurgeries than the busiest surgeon in the field.
Lower and upper bounds were set, referred to here as minimum cost and maximum cost. This permitsupper and lower bounds to be calculated for the resulting frequencies and costs. All numbers should onlybe considered significant to 2 digits.
10.1 Limit Analysis of Surgical Costs
The uncertainties involving surgical cost estimates can be summarized as follows:
Three surgeons did not provide their numbers of surgeries. These could have ranged from zero (orthe provable minimum in one case) to a number equal to the busiest surgeon in their specialty.
The percentages of uncounted patients who are US residents, which could have ranged from 0%to 100% of all uncounted patients.
The percent of all primary surgeries performed by the major surgeons. The minimum cost case isthat all surgeries were performed by responding surgeons (e.g.100%.) A very conservative upperbound can be established by supposing that as many MTF patients go to minor surgeons as majorsurgeons (50%) and, similarly, that there are as many FTM patients having mastectomies bynonspecialists as by specialists (50%.) These numbers are absurdly high, but serve to limit theworst case costs.
Limits on the cost of hysterectomies can range from 10% of patients having the least-costhysterectomy (about $2,000) to 100% of patients having the most-cost procedure (about $17,000.) Limits on the cost of metoidioplasties can be as few as 21 patients (the number of US residentscounted) having the minimum cost metoidioplasty (cost ranging from $6,677 to $15,600). Toestablish an upper bound, we assume that all surgeons who do the metoidioplasty procedure, anddid not respond, operate at maximum capacity (equal to the busiest surgeon who does thisprocedure.) There could be as many as 51 metoidioplasties done each year, and we assume theycharge the maximum $15,600.
Limits on the cost of phalloplasties can be as few as 21 patients (the number of US residentscounted) having the minimum cost phalloplasty (cost ranging from $15,500 to $35,000). Toestablish an upper bound, we assume that all surgeons who do the phalloplasty procedure, and didnot respond, operate at maximum (equal to the busiest surgeon who does this procedure.) Therecould be as many as 165 phalloplasties done each year, and we assume they charge the maximum$35,000.
Using the above lower/upper bound reasoning, primary surgery rates on US residents can be limited from674 to 1728 MTF surgeries, and from 294 to 1198 FTM surgeries.
Since patients can have a metoidioplasty, a phalloplasty, or neither, but not both, the FTM upper limit forbottom surgery cost is a full abdominal hysterectomy ($17,000) combined with the most expensivephalloplasty ($35,000.) The minimum cost case is to have no bottom surgery at all. (See also endnote IV.) Total costs for MTF surgeries could be as low as $7 million for 674 surgeries to as high as $19 million for1728 surgeries. Similarly, total costs for FTM top and bottom surgeries could be as low as $3.4 million for294 surgeries, to as high as $47 million for 1728 total surgeries.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Table 10 below summarizes the Best Estimate, Minimum Cost, and Maximum Cost cases for MTF, FTM,and Total Combined surgery costs.
Best Estimate
Minimum Cost
Maximum Cost
Surgical Data
Number of Primary
Surgeries on US residents
Average Cost per patient
Total cost of all surgeries
on US Residents
Total annual cost of all
surgeries, per insured
Table 10: Total Surgical Cost
The analysis determined that, while the expected cost of SRS is 11¢ per patient, it might be as low as 7¢,and it might be as high as 36¢. Each of these values is based on extreme and unlikely assumptions, andthe true cost is certainly between the two figures.
10.2 Limit Analysis of Nonsurgical Costs
The nonsurgical costs are primarily based on interviews with subject matter experts. It is therefore moredifficult to place upper and lower bounds around these numbers. This section shows conservativeboundaries. Further research should narrow the range considerably.
Table 11 below uses the process of establishing boundaries around nonsurgical costs: therapy, hormones,and doctor’s office visits in support of hormones. We begin with the assumption that not every transsexualhas surgery, but rather some who are diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder will transition to living fulltime in the new gender role, may or may not have therapy, may or may not have HRT, and may or may nothave surgery. Since those who do not transition cannot have surgery, we consider the THB needs of thepopulation who do transition. We estimate the fraction of those who transition that have therapy, that haveHRT, and that have surgery.
By knowing the numbers who have surgery and the fractions of those who transition have therapy, HRT,and surgery, we can calculate the number who transition, and from that number we can calculate thenumber who have therapy and who have HRT. Since all of these values are not known quantities, butrather ranges, we can calculate the range values. This is shown in Table 11.
If the number of MTF surgeries in a year is 807 (range 674 to 1728) and 20% of those who transition haveSRS (range 10% to 100%) we can calculate that the number who transition is about 4035 (range 674 to17,285.) If 90% of those who transition have therapy (range 50% to 90%,) there are 3,632 (range 337 to15,556) MTF transsexuals entering therapy each year. Similar reasoning applies to HRT and to FTMtranssexuals. Doctor’s office visits are required for HRT so the HRT MD numbers will match HRT.
Combined totals of MTF and FTM can be calculated by adding the two populations.
No. of Transitioning
Best Estimate
Minimum Cost
Maximum Cost
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Number of Surgeries/year
Percentage of
Transsexuals having
Primary Surgery

Number of Transsexuals
Transitioning each year
Percentage of
Transsexuals having

Number of TS who have
Percentage of
Transsexuals having HRT
Number of TS who begin
Table 11: Fractions of Transsexuals who have SRS, Therapy and HRT
10.3 Limit Analysis of Mental Health Therapy
A similar process can be used for the costs of each type of health care. Table 12 shows the cost range fortherapy. If therapy costs $125 per session (range $60 to $150) and there are 4 sessions per year for anaverage patient (range 3 to 20) then basic therapy costs for the first year are about $500 (range $180 to$3,000.) Adding in possible costs for group sessions, evaluation by a second therapist, and a 3 monthallowance for sessions beyond the first year, we can calculate a total cost per patient as $1,088 (range $180to $4,700.) The cost per patient is the same for MTF and FTM, but the percentages who have therapy aredifferent. This may be because the therapist’s letter is essential for MTF SRS and is often required forHRT, but many FTMs have the option to live full time, and possibly even have top surgery, without atherapist’s letter.
The total therapy cost for the 90% (range 50% to 90%) of MTF patients who have therapy is therefore$3.95 million (range $61,000 to $73.115 million) and, dividing this number by the number of insured USresidents, the annual MTF cost per insured is $0.056 . (range $0.0009 to $1.036 .) Similar analyses forthe FTM population result in a cost per insured of $0.004 (range $0.0004 to $1.036 ) and a combined totalcost per insured of $0.030 (range $0.0006 to $0.694 .) Best Estimate
Minimum Cost
Maximum Cost
Therapy Cost Ranges
Cost of Therapy per
session (assume out of

Number of sessions per
year per patient
Additional Therapy
cost/year (group

Second evaluation for
SRS letter
Therapy cost beyond first
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Total cost of Therapy per
Percent of TS in Therapy
Number of Patients in
Total Cost of Therapy
Annual cost per insured
$0.030 $0.0009
$0.0004 $0.0006
Table 12: Cost Ranges for Therapy
10.4 Limit Analysis of HRT
HRT costs vary depending on the dosages prescribed by the doctor, and are different for MTF and FTMpatients. The minimum cost MTF case is assumed to begin at .625 mg of Premarin, and .25 mg ofSpironolactone daily, increasing to 5 g of Premarin and 100 mg Spironolactone in the 2nd year, costing anaverage of $1,198 per year. The maximum cost MTF case is 4x1.25mg Premarin daily, 1x100mgSpironolactone daily, and 200 mg Prometrium daily, purchased in 30 day supplies at a retail pharmacy,costing $2,376 per year. FTM HRT costs are assumed at $229/year (range $229 to $600 .) Prices are basedon one insurer's stated cost, and include both the employee + employer cost.
Costs are separated into the transition phase (years 1-2) and maintenance phase (years 3+ to age 65.)Maintenance HRT costs for MTF patients are based on much lower dosages (1.25 mg Premarin/day) butare still higher, due to the need to continue maintenance HRT for the rest of the patient’s life. Thecalculated values are shown in Table 13.
HRT Cost Ranges
Number of patients in
years 1-2 of HRT

Cost per patient: years 1-
2 of HRT

Total cost Years 1-2 of
HRT (millions)

Number of patients in
year 3+ of HRT

Cost per patient: year 3+
of HRT

Total cost Years 3+ of
HRT (millions)

Number of patients in
HRT: combined

Cost per patient: HRT

Total cost HRT
(combined, millions)

Total HRT cost per
insured (annual)

Years 1-2 HRT cost per
insured (annual)

Years 3+ HRT cost per
insured (annual)

Table 13: Cost Ranges for HRT
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits 10.5 Limit Analysis of Doctor’s Office Visits in Support of HRT
A similar analysis is used for the cost of HRT doctor’s office visits in support of hormones. Costs includeoffice visit charges and lab charges. Office visits are assumed at $65 per visit (range $50 to $100.) Labtests for blood hormone levels are assumed at $125 (range $100 to $200.) In all cases, we assumequarterly doctor's office visits the first 2 years and semiannual visits thereafter, with lab tests twice in thefirst year and annually thereafter, as specified in the SOC. The results, separated into transition andmaintenance costs, are shown in Table 14. Best Estimate
Minimum Cost
Maximum Cost
HRT MD Cost Ranges
Number of patients in
years 1-2 of HRT MD
Cost per patient: years 1-2
Total cost: years 1-2 of
Number of patients in
year 3+ of HRT MD
Cost per patient: year 3+
Total cost: year 3+ of HRT
Number of patients in
HRT MD: combined
Cost per patient: HRT MD
Total cost: HRT MD
Total HRT MD cost per
insured (annual)
Years 1-2 HRT MD cost
per insured (annual)
Years 3+ HRT MD cost per
insured (annual)
Table 14: Cost Ranges for Doctor’s Office Visits in Support of HRT
10.6 Total Cost, Cost Per Insured
All these costs can be combined into a single table, showing the best estimate of the cost per insured USresident, with range of minimum and maximum. The total nonsurgical costs, with ranges, are combined inTable 15. Best Estimate
Minimum Cost
Maximum Cost
Total Cost
Total therapy cost
(combined) (millions)
Total cost: HRT

(combined) (millions)
Total cost: HRT MD

(combined) (millions)
Total annual

nonsurgical cost

Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Total annual
nonsurgical cost per
insured (millions)

Table 15: Total Annual Nonsurgical Cost Ranges for US Residents
The total nonsurgical costs per patient, with ranges, are combined in Table 16.
Best Estimate
Minimum Cost
Maximum Cost
Total cost per insured
Cost per insured for
Cost per insured for HRT
Cost per insured for HRT
Cost per insured for
Total cost per insured
Table 16: Total Annual THB Costs Per Insured US Resident
Based on this analysis, we can conclude that the best estimate of total health care costs for THBs in the USis about 64¢ per insured person. Of the 50¢ (rounded) for hormones and doctor’s office visits in support orhormones, about 39¢ is for years 3 and up, maintenance costs that are likely already covered. The cost forthe surgery itself is about 11¢, or about 17% of the total THB cost.
The lower and upper bounds can be narrowed down to a minimum cost estimate of 13¢ and a maximumcost estimate of $5.31. These are based on extremely optimistic and pessimistic assumptions for everypatient, and the actual cost is likely to be in between the extremes.
11. Discussion
A typical health care plan costs about $4,000 per year per insured. Thus, a total cost of 64¢ per insuredwould be .016% of the total health care costs. The upper bound of $5.31/insured is about .13%, and thelower bound of 13¢ is about .003%. By comparison, Domestic Partner Benefits for same-sex partnersusually cost about 1%, or up to 2% if same and opposite-sex partners are covered. THBs probably costabout 1.6% as much as DPBs, and in the highest-cost case cost no more than 13% as much as DPBs.
Employers rarely cover 100% of health care costs. Employees are expected to contribute co-pays,premiums, and deductables. THBs, if covered, are subject to these same rules. The Kaiser FamilyFoundation (Dispatch, 2003) found that, in 2002, single employees paid 15% of their health care costs,and families paid 26% of their costs, with employers paying the remainder. Each year the employee shareincreases as employers try to hold the line on the employer share. It seems likely that, of the 64¢ increase,the employee would pay some of the cost, and the employer would pay less than the full amount. Withsignificant portions of the expense being for mental health and for drugs, both of which are often coveredat lesser amounts than major medical benefits, the employee share will be substantial. Each employershould break out the expenses into the different types to arrive at the fraction that is their share.
Many companies already have health plans that offer partial coverage of THBs. A company that currentlyoffers partial coverage and is considering increasing the level, or a company considering partial coverage,would incur a smaller increase as a result.
Some benefits are probably already being covered, even with plans that intend to exclude all coverage. Inparticular, the drug cost (and supporting office visits) of maintenance for post-operative transsexuals, who Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits are legally documented in their new gender, is usually covered because they are legally no different thanany other hormone prescription. This maintenance amount, 39¢, represents over half of the total THB cost.
It is also common for patients diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder to also have other mental healthdiagnoses (such as Depression) and for plans to cover the treatment under that diagnosis. Similarly, aprescription for hormones does not have an attached diagnosis, so some transsexuals are currentlyreceiving coverage of their HRT and HRT MD health care because the insurance administrator cannot tellthe reason for the treatment, and because these same treatments are fully covered for other patients who arenot transsexual.
Some patients choose to self-fund parts of their health care even when covered by insurance. For example,many therapists are off-network and will not work with insurance companies, instead requiring the patientto do the paperwork. Some patients choose to pay their therapist directly rather than deal with theinsurance bureaucracy. (Stories of insurance administrators repeatedly losing the paperwork or incorrectlyrejecting a claim are commonplace.) Of three transsexual employees at Lucent who had their surgeryduring the covered period from 2000 to 2003, one chose to pay directly rather than submit the claim toinsurance. In a field where lack of insurance coverage is so commonplace, many patients find thebureaucracy so foreboding that they will not face it.
The "magnet effect" is a concern that, if a small number of employers offer a THB benefit, transsexualworkers may find such employers so attractive that they change jobs, thereby increasing total cost bylocating a disproportionate number of workers in the one company. In theory, this should be mostly aconcern when there are only a few such employers, and would tend to even out as THB coverage becomesmore widespread. However, the experience of employers such as Lucent and San Francisco has not foundany increase in claims due to disproportionate hiring of transsexuals. Employee resource groups point outthat good benefit packages, including benefits such as Domestic Partner Benefits, are often used asrecruiting tools to attract qualified employees from different minority populations, and that THBs would beno different. An employee still has to be qualified for the job if they are to be hired.
Another concern is that, as insurance coverage becomes more widespread, the total amount of affordabletransgender health care may increase, and the total being spent may increase. This may indeed be a longterm result of universal health coverage of THBs. There are many transsexuals who use hormones, but donot make regular use of therapy, and cannot afford electrolysis or surgery. In theory, if only 20% oftranssexuals who want surgery are able to afford it today, the costs could grow by a factor of 5. However,most therapists and surgeons have full calendars, and the waiting lists for surgery dates are quite long. Thesystem cannot quickly absorb a fivefold increase in demand, as an entire generation of new specialistswould need to train and enter the field. Such an increase in capacity would increase competition and bringdown prices. (For example, surgery in Thailand has become competitive, and Thai prices have come downby over 50% compared with North American prices.
11.1 Employer Cost Model
Combining these concerns, a model can be constructed to estimate costs for a specific employer. Thefigures in the table below can be adjusted to reflect a specific situation.
The figures given in the E column below represent the 15% share of a single employee. The CP columnrepresents maintenance costs of post-operative transsexuals, who are likely to be currently covered bytypical health plans. Based on the experience of employers like Lucent and San Francisco, it is reasonableto estimate zero for the increased care (IC) in the table below. The employer can estimate the other figuresbased on its own data and experience.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Type of Cost
Total Cost /
Employer Share Employer
Increased Care Increased cost
Share (15%)
(magnet &
to Employer
long term)
Symbol for Cost C
I = Er – CP +

Table 17: Employer Cost Model
12. Conclusion
This paper measures the frequency and cost of Transgender Health Benefits (THBs) for US residents. Itreports on a survey of surgeons who do SRS procedures, and reports the number of US residentsundergoing SRS in the year 2001 to be MTF and FTM, with the confidence range setting lower and upperbounds of to MTF, and to FTM. The prevalence of SRS per year among US residents is about 1: (about1:204,000 MTF and 1:141,000 FTM.) The survey found that the average cost for MTF SRS in 2001 was (with a range of to ) and for FTMprimary surgery (top surgery) was (with a range of to .) This cost, compared to the number of insured USresidents in the 2000 US Census, for MTF is 12¢ (per insured per year,) for FTM is 11¢, and in total is11¢/insured/year.
Adding typical THB nonsurgical costs for mental health (3¢,) HRT (31¢,) and physician visits for HRT(19¢,) the total estimated annual cost per insured would be 64¢. The total cost per insured might be as lowas ¢ or as high as . These costs represent the total cost, including employer and employee shares, andinclude any costs already being covered by the employer. Increased costs to employers would be less,probably no more than 16¢.
Employers considering the addition of some or all Transgender Health Benefits to their plans canreasonably expect the total cost to increase no more than 64¢ per year per insured, and because of existingpartial coverage, and employees sharing the cost, the actual increase will probably be much less.
13. Future Work
This survey measures prevalence and cost information for primary surgeries for US residents. Additional studies could more accurately measure the run rate and cost of FTM bottom surgeries. Bettermeasurement of Therapy, HRT, and HRT MD costs are also possible.
Studies on populations other than US residents would be of interest.
Studies to chart data in different years would make it possible to measure trends in the run rate and pricesbeing charged.
A study could determine the share of cost currently being paid by insurers, and the share being paid byemployees.
Analysis of the Cost of Transgender Health Benefits Appendix A:
(Badgett) Calculating Costs with Credibility: Health Care Benefits for Domestic Partners. M. V. LeeBadgett, Ph.D., IGLSS, 2000.
(Census, 2000) US Census, US Residents by age at Number of Insured by age at
(Conway) How Frequently Does Transsexualism Occur?, by Lynn Conway, 2002,
(Dispatch) The Kaiser Family Foundation is cited as the source of the "Unhealthy Costs" graphic,Columbus Dispatch, March 3, 2003.
(Dozetos) S.F. to Finance Gender Reassignments, Barbara Dozetos, / Network,May 1, 2001 (DSM) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV.) AmericanPsychiatric Association, 1994, pg 535.
(Green, 1999) Reflections on "Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment" 1969-1999: Presidential Address,August 1999, Richard Green, M.D., J.D., President, Harry Benjamin International Gender DysphoriaAssociation.
(Green, 2004) Jamison Green, personal correspondence, 2004.
(HRC) The Human Rights Campaign web site counts 212 of 500 Fortune 500employers (42.4%) offering Domestic Partner Benefits as of the 2003 survey, 5/31/2004.
(Janus) The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, Samuel S Janus & Synthia L Janus, 1993.
Reports that 6% of males an 3% of females have engaged in cross-dressing (e.g. 1 or more on Benjaminscale.) (van Kesteren) An epidemiological and demographic study of transsexuals in the Netherlands, vanKesteren, PJ, Gooren, LJ, Megans, JA, 25(6) Archives of Sexual behavior 589 (1996.) (SF HRC) Insurance Coverage for Transsexual Employees of the City and County of San Francisco, Oct1997, SF Human Rights Commission. See also the excellent bibliography in this report.
(SOC) Standards of Care, Version Six, 2001, Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association.
(Wålinder) Jan Wålinder. Transsexualism: A study of forty-three cases. Originally published byAkademiförlaget-Gumperts, Göteborg, 1967 i A typical policy reads “Transsexual Surgery. Expenses related or leading to surgery to change an individual’s gender are
ii The transition is the first day the transsexual begins to permanently live full time in the new gender role. Some of thosewho transition go on to have surgery.
iii Lucent’s definition reads:
“Medically necessary: (medical necessity). The determination of medical necessity is made by the applicable health care
. Care is considered medically necessary if:
It is accepted by the health care profession in the U.S. as appropriate and effective for the condition being treated, It is based upon recognized standards of the health care specialty involved, It represents the most appropriate level of care: the frequency of services, the duration of services, and the site of
services, depending on the seriousness of the condition being treated (such as in the hospital or in the physician's
office), and
It is not experimental or investigational.” iv The theoretically least expensive FTM surgery is the least expensive chest surgery at $4,000. The theoretically mostexpensive FTM surgery would be a combination of the most expensive chest surgery at $7,500, a total abdominalhysterectomy at about $17,000, and the most expensive phalloplasty at about $35,000, totaling $59,500.
v Because the author's contacts and concept of "reputation" of a surgeon is US-centric, the results presented here will notnecessarily apply to other countries or cultures.
vi Chest surgery is seen as more essential and more attainable by the FTM population, whereas MTF transsexuals oftencannot afford it, and live without the surgery.
vii These prices are from one US insurance company in 2004 for a company health plan, using mail order delivery of a 90day supply. Prices will vary.
viii It has been speculated that the death rate among transsexuals is actually much higher than the general population. If true,there are fewer transsexuals among today’s living population.
ix This is based on an assumption that the primary barriers to SRS today are social, family, and medical. It is also possiblethe rate will continue to rise, although this will require more surgeons to enter the field.


Quantifying effect of statins on low density lipoprotein cholesterol, ischaemic heart disease, and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis M R Law, N J Wald, A R Rudnicka Abstract Conclusions Statins can lower LDL cholesterol concentration by an average of 1.8 mmol/l which Objectives To determine by how much statins reduce reduces the risk of IHD events by about 60% andserum conce

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