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Sex Changed Excluded From Ore. Plan

February 26, 1999

SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ The Oregon Health Services Commission on Thursday unanimously decided to exclude sex change operations from state health plans.

The commission concluded there is little evidence to show sex change surgery gives much help to people with gender identity disorders.

Transsexuals have been pushing the commission for two years to include the operation under the list of treatments covered by the Oregon Health Plan, which provides insurance for 300,000 low-income Oregonians.

Several transsexuals had attended earlier commission meetings on the subject, but boycotted Thursday’s meeting.

In a telephone interview from Portland, they criticized the commission’s conclusion that sex change operations aren’t that beneficial.

``The task force is completely biased and made up of people who don’t deal with the transsexual population,″ said Olivia Jaquay, who is hoping the state will pay for one last plastic surgery to complete his transformation from a male to female.

Margaret O’Hartigan, who changed from a man to a woman in the 1970s, said she was on welfare before the operation and has since become a functioning, taxpaying citizen.

One of commission members, Dr. Eric Walsh of Portland, said the problem is not clearly defined enough to warrant placing sex change operations on the list of covered treatments.

``There’s no evidence this surgery saves lives,″ the Portland physician said. ``There’s no pressing need to put it on the list″ of procedures covered by the state.

Walsh said he read almost 300 articles on the subject and found that studies are flawed because of a big dropout rate by transsexuals after they undergo surgery.

Walsh said the operations are of some help dealing with people’s ``body image problems,″ but they don’t necessarily improve a person’s ``social functioning,″ such as ability to hold a job.

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