Roanoke man fights insurance to pay for life-saving surgery

2020 Pride Month

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Haiden Harris is a 21-year-old transgender man living in Roanoke, who finds himself fighting with his insurance company in an effort to be addressed as a man.

All though he lives openly as a transgender man, he admits his insurance information differing does affect his experience when dealing with medical professionals.

“Any other form of ID I have, says my current name on it and my current sex, so it’s hard to go into places and not have everything match because that’s just a dead giveaway,” Harris explained.

Harris remembers deciding to start his transition last year, saying, “I don’t know what the first step even is.”

He has been on hormones since last March, and had to get lawyers and an endocrinologist before he could move forward with any surgery, which officials with his insurance company kept asking him to pay for.

“I had Virginia Medicaid and I had to get lawyers to fight them on it because they were denying me. They said that they wouldn’t cover ‘transsexuals’, which was not a nice word to use,” Harris said.

After about a year, Harris’ lawyers’ efforts paid off.

“I teared up. I mean it’s, it’s so life-changing. I don’t think people understand how big of a deal it is to live 21 years with that thing that’s not supposed to be there and it’s just gone. I mean it’s a huge deal. It’s life-saving,” he explained.

In February, Harris’ insurance company paid for him to undergo “top surgery,” which is the removal of breast tissue, and tailoring of the chest skin and area.

Thirteenth District Del. Danica Roem pushed her bill through last April, which provides legislation preventing federal insurance companies from discriminating against trans people.

Roem is the first openly transgender who has been elected to the Virginia Assembly, so she knows this can be a life-saving cause. She has spearheaded the effort to pass inclusive laws for the LGBTQIA+ community in Virginia.

“We are dramatically expanding the pool of available health insurance plans that have to cover transition-related healthcare,” said Roem.

This bill laid the ground work for Virginians, like Harris, in need of “top” or “bottom” surgery.

Despite his success, Harris still feels some disappointment, saying, “My family doesn’t know that I’ve transitioned at all.”

Like many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and or questioning community, Harris was homeless for a time.

“I feel like I had to grow up really fast,” he said.

In addition, Harris’ family did not accept him.

“I wish they would’ve at least tried to accept me for me and not just kind of threw me to the curb and just, I know they’ll never accept me for me and that kind of hurts.”

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