Insurers refuse to consider sex change in issuing policies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 August, 2010, 12:00am

People who have had sex-change surgery face a problem when buying medical and life insurance because insurers will only acknowledge their gender at birth.

This means men who have become women cannot buy a medical insurance package designed for women, and women who have become men are unable to get one designed for males.

For life insurance, a male-to-female transsexual would be treated as a man and subject to a higher premium due to the shorter life expectancy of men, insurance sector legislator Chan Kin-por said.

The coverage of and premium for medical insurance were in general determined by the health condition of an applicant for a policy and 'transgender treatment' was usually not covered, he said. 'The pool of policyholders who are transsexual is so small that the premium for them would be very costly if they want to enjoy the medical coverage specially designed for their situation,' he said.

Albert Yuen Wai-cheung, the chief of service of the department of surgery at Ruttonjee and Tang Shiu Kin Hospitals in Wan Chai, said male-to-female transsexuals would become more prone to such problems as high blood pressure, breast cancer and deep vein thrombosis due to the intake of hormones to maintain their female physical characteristics and health condition. Hormones used in the switch from female to male made water and salt retention a health risk.

After sex-change surgery, the immediate health risk was osteoporosis due to the early loss of sex hormones, especially among those aged under 40, Yuen said. So patients needed to receive appropriate sex hormones regularly.

Ruttonjee and Tang Shiu Kin Hospitals is the only public complex that conducts sex-change surgery.