PORTLAND -- Mayor Sam Adams wants to include sexual reassignment surgery on one of the plans offered to city employees.
Opponents said it will cost taxpayers thousands. But the idea may be gaining support.
The additional cost each year for the city to add sexual reassignment surgery to its health care plan is $32,302 -- that's a .08% increase out of the $41 million the city already spends on health care.
"It's a much smaller piece of a pool of benefits that are provided to employees, but critically significant for transgender folks," said Jeana Frazzini, the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. Frazzini worked with Mayor Adams for over a year crafting the ordinance. She said he came to her after Multnomah County adopted the same health care benefits last year.
"We are talking about medically necessary care that folks with their physician, have decided are the right course for them," said Frazzini.
The American Medical Association identified years ago that all transgender health care is medically necessary. The AMA went on to say no public or private health insurance should deny coverage. At least one Portland city council member agrees.
"As a former nurse, I believe medical decisions should be made between the doctor (and the patient) and the insurance company shouldn’t be getting in the middle of who can have what kind of procedures. I think this is a step in the right direction," said Commissioner Amanada Fritz.
Mayor Adams added, "covering basic, medically-necessary care is a matter of fairness, and it's the right thing to do."
But with staggering unemployment and a continuing budget crisis, many question if now is really the time.
"It has nothing really to do about pro or anti-gay rights, it's really about the money and the priorities of where we're going with City Hall. And this is what were prioritizing?" asked Jeff Reynolds with the Multnomah County Republicans.
In 2001, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to give the benefits. The city of Seattle is also looking at joining in. Major businesses like Nike, Google, and Microsoft already offer it.
Portland city commissioners will vote June 8th at 9:45 am on the plan.