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Transgender Health Benefits Expand—at Starbucks and Beyond

By / Jul 3, 2018 (nito100/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Starbucks recently announced a plan to pay for a number of medical procedures for transgender employees that would not otherwise be covered by traditional health insurance. The move by the coffee chain, which was assisted by an association, reflects increased corporate interest in such benefits.

Recent controversies aside, Starbucks has long fostered a reputation as a progressive employer.

The latest such example on this front is the company’s addition of comprehensive healthcare coverage for transgender employees, reflecting a trend that’s likely to pick up in the coming years beyond the coffee chain.

The company, which teamed with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to build out the benefits offering, now covers procedures such as voice therapy, hair transplants, and facial-feminization surgery. These procedures go beyond gender reassignment surgery, which the company has covered since 2012, and into procedures that many healthcare plans don’t cover.

According to a news release, WPATH Immediate Past President Jamison Green says that Starbucks is the first company in the world to work with the association on turning the group’s recommendations into benefits.

“Starbucks was not afraid to ask all the right questions and demand that people get the best possible care,” Green stated.

A Trend With Growing Interest

While Starbucks is a trendsetter, it’s not the absolute first to go to these lengths.

As Fast Company notes, the issue is gaining more attention in corporate America, with companies like Intel investing in transgender health benefits as part of a large push toward diversity.

That shift didn’t come immediately for many companies, however—as the magazine noted, many companies have shown support to LGBTQ issues but left the issue of transgender medical care off to the side. But the tide is starting to shift, in no small part thanks to advocacy work of organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, which has prioritized trans-inclusive policies.

Last year, HRC’s Corporate Equality Index reported that 459 major employers had adopted inclusion guidelines focused on supporting transgender workers during their transition.

One point that HRC and similar groups are making in support of assisting transgender employees is that the cost is relatively small, as transgender individuals make up a small percentage of the overall LGBTQ population in the U.S. (and an even smaller percentage of the workforce as a whole), and such procedures have a lower price tag than those for other major medical procedures.

Julie Stich, the vice president of content for the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, in comments to Fast Company, characterized the benefits as both cost-effective and inclusive.

“Offering transgender-inclusive health benefits is a way for employers to remain competitive in attracting talent without breaking the bank,” she told the magazine.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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