VIDEO: Heartwarming Story About Student's Sex Change Surgery Was Misunderstanding, College Says
UPDATE: Collins posted a statement to his Indiegogo fundraising page on Wednesday night explaining that he received "very unexpected news regarding his insurance claim." Collins reports that his insurance will be covering most of the cost of his breast removal procedure, except for $2,000 needed for his co-pay, travel and care expenses. He says the rest of the money the fraternity raised (about $18,000) will be going to the Jim Collins Foundation, a charity that provides financial assistance for transgender patients. In a video Collins posted on YouTube last night, he said, "It's been a really incredible experience...I honestly couldn't be happier with the way things are turning out. Also, the Ironman 3 trailer came out! Which I'm super excited about."
Donnie Collins, a 19-year-old transgender student at Emerson College in Boston, was rejected by his student insurance when he tried to apply for sex reassignment surgery, so brothers at the fraternity he was pledging pitched in to raise money for the operation, according to a heartwarming story published last week by ABC News. But Wednesday, a spokesperson for the university told Mother Jones that, in fact, Collins' surgery was covered by his student health insurance all along, and the rejection was a mistake by the insurance company.
"Emerson College is pleased to have confirmation that its policy with Aetna will cover Donnie Collins' surgery," Carole McFall, a spokesperson for Emerson, told Mother Jones. "After the rejection of his initial request, the college contacted Aetna for clarification—knowing that transgender benefits have been part of its insurance policy with Aetna since 2006. The conversations that followed led to the discovery that the policy language had inadvertently not been updated by Aetna on their internal documents. This inaccuracy led to the rejection of coverage."
McFall adds that all treatments related to transgender patients are covered, including hormone treatment (which Collins' mother's insurance did not cover) and surgery, but could not comment immediately on whether that policy also applies to staff. As the New York Times reported, at least 36 other universities already offer insurance coverage with transgender benefits for students. McFall says Emerson was one of the first universities to do so, and expects that Phi Alpha Tau (which is a "professional communicative arts fraternity" and not a traditional national Greek organization) will issue a statement about the news this evening. The organization already told ABC News that it plans to donate excess funds raised to the Jim Collins Foundation, which provides financial assistance for transgender patients.