A Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) employee can now have the medically necessary surgery he needs thanks to a new policy announced by the CTA that allows him to see insurance coverage for the surgery. The CTA insurance plan now will cover surgeries that CTA employees need as part of gender transition after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois contacted the CTA about the exclusion in insurance coverage for the medical condition affecting some transgender individuals.

Russia Brown is a man who is transgender and works as a bus driver for the CTA. Russia began medically transitioning in July 2016. Based on recommendations of his health care providers, Russia made the decision to get top surgery in 2017. He received a letter from his primary care physician and psychiatrist recommending this surgery for him. This surgery is often recommended by health professionals who treat those who are transgender, allowing the patient’s body to better correspond to the gender they know themselves to be.  

In December 2017, after extensive research, Russia located a surgeon. After confirming the surgeon was in-network and that the procedure was covered by his insurance provider, he scheduled a date for surgery. However - even though he had paid premiums for his insurance for years - Russia was initially denied coverage of the surgery by the CTA, which stated it only covered the surgery for patients with cancer.

After this rejection, Russia connected with the ACLU of Illinois, where his attorney sent a letter on his behalf to the CTA demanding insurance coverage that treats transgender employees fairly. As a result, the CTA changed its insurance policy so that coverage for Russia’s surgery was approved.

“I just want to be the person I am. I work hard and I pay for my insurance out of my paycheck every two weeks like other employees. When I first got denied, it made me feel forgotten and that my employer didn’t really care about transgender people. I am glad the CTA stepped up and did the right thing. In a company of 11,000 people, I was able to help change this policy for the better - and that feels really good,” said Russia Brown.

“Federal and state law requires insurance policies to pay for necessary medical coverage, including treatment for employees who are transgender. We congratulate CTA for changing their policy and making the CTA a better work place for all of its employees,” said Carolyn Wald, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Illinois.