In reversal, insurer to cover surgery for transgender Emerson College student

The good news is only getting better for a transgender student at Emerson College.

Last week, Donnie Collins’s story went viral after reported that his fraternity brothers were raising money via the Internet for Collins’s transition surgery after his insurance company declined his claim.

People around the world saw Collins’s situation, and the support of his new brothers in Phi Alpha Tau, a professional communications fraternity, and they donated far more than the $2,000 the brothers originally set out to raise.

By Thursday morning, they had raised more than $20,000 for the surgery, which will remove breast tissue and reconstruct a more masculine chest for Collins, who was born female but began living as a man before graduating from high school.


But in a Facebook post and YouTube video posted Wednesday night, Collins said that he received notice March 1 that his insurance company had accepted his claim after all.

“I submitted my first claim a month ago, so it’s been a month since I’ve really had any dealing with insurance,’’ Collins said in the YouTube video. “I did not instigate this. It was totally unexpected. I was very confused.’’

Collins could not be reached for comment Thursday morning, but in the video he said that Emerson’s student insurance policy covers breast-removal surgery for transgender men who meet certain criteria, but that the language explaining the standard had not made it into the policy issued by Aetna, the college’s insurance provider.

“It’s really cool, because it now means that we have this reconciled understanding of what the policy is, and that is evident in the writing of the policy now, even though it wasn’t before,’’ Collins said in the video.

Still, he said, after learning that the surgery could be covered under his policy, he still needed official confirmation that he met the criteria and his particular surgery would be covered. He said he had waited from the time of that first phone call on Friday until the Wednesday public announcement so he would be sure that he was covered.


“This is amazing, because it means that of all the money we’ve raised, I’m only going to need to use about $2,000 for my co-pay and travel and care expenses,’’ he said in the video. “Meaning that $18,000, which is now our excess amount of fund-raised money, can go to the Jim Collins Foundation, the organization that we’ve pledged it to. We can help people that need this money a lot more than I do.’’

The Jim Collins Foundation is a Connecticut-based nonprofit that funds gender-transition surgeries. The late Jim Collins and Donnie Collins are not related.

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