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Transgender bus driver’s transition to be covered by CTA health insurance

Russia Brown (Photo courtesy of ACLU of Illinois)

CHICAGO — A Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) employee will now have his transition surgery covered by the transit agency’s health insurance after first being denied coverage.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois said on their website Wednesday that the CTA has a new policy that does cover surgery and transition.

Russia Brown, who works as a CTA bus driver, started transitioning in 2016 and started planning for top surgery after discussions with his health care providers. He got a letter from his doctor and psychiatrist recommending the surgery and had found an in-network surgeon. After scheduling the surgery, the ACLU said, Brown was denied coverage for the surgery because the CTA said it only covered the surgery for cancer patients.

After therejection, Brown connected with the ACLU of Illinois, where his attorney sent a letter on his behalf to the CTA demanding insurance coverage that treats transgender employees fairly. After receiving the letter, he CTA changed its insurance policy so tthe surgery was approved.

“I just want to be the person I am. I work hard and I pay for my insurance out of my paycheck every two weeks like other employees. When I first got denied, it made me feel forgotten and that my employer didn’t really care about transgender people. I am glad the CTA stepped up and did the right thing. In a company of 11,000 people, I was able to help change this policy for the better – and that feels really good,” said Brown on the ACLU website.

“Federal and state law requires insurance policies to pay for necessary medical coverage, including treatment for employees who are transgender. We congratulate CTA for changing their policy and making the CTA a better work place for all of its employees,” said Carolyn Wald, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Illinois.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele told the Chicago Sun-Times that the insurance policy was reversed “in keeping with our broader efforts toward inclusion and diversity” in the workplace.

“CTA reviewed its existing guidelines related to health care coverage for gender reassignment surgery and determined such coverage should be extended in cases that are supported by proper medical documentation,” Steele wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.

The newspaper said that the CTA would now cover the $30,000 surgery.

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