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.

 

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We have a considerable $390,000 gap in our online fundraising budget that we have to close by June 30. There is no wiggle room, we've already cut everything we can, and we urgently need more readers to pitch in—especially from this specific blurb you're reading right now.

We'll also be quite transparent and level-headed with you about this.

In "News Never Pays," our fearless CEO, Monika Bauerlein, connects the dots on several concerning media trends that, taken together, expose the fallacy behind the tragic state of journalism right now: That the marketplace will take care of providing the free and independent press citizens in a democracy need, and the Next New Thing to invest millions in will fix the problem. Bottom line: Journalism that serves the people needs the support of the people. That's the Next New Thing.

And it's what MoJo and our community of readers have been doing for 47 years now.

But staying afloat is harder than ever.

In "This Is Not a Crisis. It's The New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, why this moment is particularly urgent, and how we can best communicate that without screaming OMG PLEASE HELP over and over. We also touch on our history and how our nonprofit model makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there: Letting us go deep, focus on underreported beats, and bring unique perspectives to the day's news.

You're here for reporting like that, not fundraising, but one cannot exist without the other, and it's vitally important that we hit our intimidating $390,000 number in online donations by June 30.

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