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Saskatchewan covering up to 100% of gender reassignment surgery costs

Saskatchewan covering up to 100% of gender reassignment surgery costs
WATCH ABOVE: A recent policy update posted to the government's website on gender confirmation surgery has transgender advocates celebrating. As Christa Dao explains, the policy has always been there but the communication hasn't.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said that the government would start covering 100 per cent of surgical costs. The government has actually been covering the cost for over a decade. Global News regrets the error.

Transgender people in Saskatchewan can have the full cost of gender reassignment surgery covered, according to a recent update on the government’s website.

On Sept. 15, the government clarified up to 100 per cent of surgical costs incurred during gender reassignment surgery can be covered by the government.

The province said the update to the government’s website was due to an increase in the number of people asking about the process.

According to the province, several surgeries may be required as part of gender reassignment surgery. Common procedures, like a hysterectomy or a mastectomy, are provided in Saskatchewan.

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More complex procedures that may require sub-specialized training may not be available in the province.

The government said if Saskatchewan residents wish to go outside of the province for gender reassignment surgery, the Ministry of Health may cover up to 100 per cent of physician costs associated with some procedures.

“In some instances, based on recommendations from a recognized authority, that 100 per cent of some things may be covered,” Health Minister Jim Reiter explained.

The procedures have to be done after a recommendation from a “recognized authority” and prior approval is required from the ministry for the coverage of specialized surgery or therapy outside of the province.

Some procedures, mainly considered experimental or non-functional, are not covered.

Travel and accommodation costs are also not covered.

Moose Jaw Pride said up until this month, many transgender people in the province did not know the process for gender reassignment surgery.

Laura Budd, education co-ordinator for Moose Jaw Pride, said they were unaware of the actual policy and communication from the province was not clear.

“Knowing that coverage is available will improve health outcomes and, for some trans individuals, save their lives,” Budd said.

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Budd said the new access to information will be a game changer for many transgender people.

“Now having this access and this path in front of them, they at least know what they’re looking at. You can plan for the known,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to plan for the unknown.”

READ MORE: Woman breaks her silence after years of living as a man

Budd said in the past, some transgender people have started crowd-funding campaigns, cashed in pensions, taken on debt or even sold their homes to pay for the surgery.

Gender-identity was added as a protected category in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code in 2014.

READ MORE: Proof of gender reassignment surgery no longer required for birth certificate amendments

In March, the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that proof of gender reassignment surgery was no longer required for birth certificate amendments.