Nova Scotia to cover breast reduction for non-binary individuals

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Nova Scotia to cover breast reduction for non-binary individuals
WATCH: Nova Scotia is expanding the scope of what MSI covers for gender affirming surgery. The change comes following a human rights complaint after a non-binary individual was denied coverage for a breast reduction surgery. Alicia Draus reports. – Nov 10, 2020

Breast reduction surgery for non-binary individuals in Nova Scotia will now be covered through the provincial insurance system.

In a physician’s bulletin dated Nov. 4, Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance (MSI) says the Department of Health and Wellness has “added the diagnoses of Persistent and Well Documented Gender Dysphoria to the list of criteria for MSI coverage for a breast reduction.”

The change is effective Nov. 2.

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According to a press release from Dalhousie Legal Aid services, the decision comes after a complaint was filed with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission by Sebastian Gaskarth.

Gaskarth, who is non-binary, told Global News on Tuesday that they filed the complaint after they had already gone through the surgery only to be told by MSI the procedure wasn’t covered.

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“I identify as a non-binary person, the irony of that is that I have to explain myself as what I’m not, so I’m not a man and I’m not a woman,” Gaskarth said.

“I wanted to make sure that other folks who if they needed this surgery they could have it.”

Sebastian Gaskarth on Nov. 10, 2020. Alicia Draus/Global News

The new coverage directly acknowledges that gender does not exist as a binary, Gaskarth said.

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“It’s one thing to grow up in a society that’s binary, but to see that this surgery is available it definitely affirms those people that don’t fit into either of those categories neatly. That means a lot in how I feel about myself and how others I think would see that,” Gaskarth said.

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Although breast augmentation surgery for transgender women and chest masculinization mastectomy surgery for transgender men was covered by MSI, neither of the surgeries provided an option for those who identify as non-binary.

The decision to cover breast augmentation surgery came last year after Serina Slaunwhite, a transgender woman, filed a human rights complaint against the Nova Scotia government in August 2018 after she was denied coverage for the procedure.

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That complaint as well as Gaskarth’s were supported by Dalhousie Legal Aid, which has been working with people who identify as trans and are facing legal issues.

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“Unfortunately what we tend to see is the province is reacting to these kinds of complaints to expand the coverage rather than proactively identifying what surgeries are currently covered and need to be covered,” said Mark Culligan, a community legal worker with Dalhousie Legal Aid.

“I think MSI has made a very good decision, and I applaud MSI for making that forward and taking steps to becoming a leader in this field in Canada.”

Global News has reached out to the Department of Health and Wellness for comment but has yet to receive a response.

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