For many years, transgender employees have lobbied for better health insurance that helps pay for everything from hormone treatments to gender reassignment surgery. That lobbying appears to have sparked Starbucks – one of the best-known coffee shops in the country – to include numerous treatments common among transgender patients in their list of covered services.
Employee Healthcare for Transgender Employees in America
Per a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2014 titled The State of Transgender Health Care: Policy, Law, and Medical Frameworks, about 0.3% of the American population identify as transgender, representing roughly one million people. The same paper also argues that many of the medical procedures and treatments sought by transgender people across the country are, in fact, medically necessary. Nonetheless, the vast majority of employer-provided healthcare policies do not cover the treatments, claiming they are no different from other cosmetic procedures.
Collaboration with WPATH
Starbucks has provided coverage for gender reassignment surgery since 2012 for those seeking a transgender surgeon, and thanks to a recent collaboration between the coffee giant and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), that coverage has expanded even more. Though gender reassignment has been covered for several years, other vital procedures – including things like facial feminization surgery, hair transplants, and restoration therapies, and even breast augmentation – were not covered under Starbucks employees’ insurance policies. Thanks to the latest revisions to those policies, transgender employees now have access to these medically necessary treatments and procedures.
A “Best Place to Work”
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the largest LGBTQ+ rights advocacy and civil rights organization in the country with a force of three million members and supporters. Their goal is to ensure gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender individuals are treated with the same respect as others – and that they receive the same benefits as others. In its Corporate Equality Index 2018, which is a benchmarking tool designed to help ensure LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace, Starbucks received a perfect score and was named a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”
The Future of Healthcare for Transgender Employees
Starbucks has always been one of the most prominent corporate advocates for LGBTQ+ civil rights, and it is hoped that other corporations around the country follow in their footsteps by increasing medical coverage for transgender employees. To date, there are hundreds of employers providing at least one transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage plan. These include 3M, American Airlines, Ford Motor Company, and others. However, only Starbucks has taken WPATH’s recommendations to heart and adjusted its employer-provided insurance plans to include a massive range of procedures. With groups like WPATH and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation fighting for equality, it is possible that many of these employers will follow Starbucks in expanding coverage.
Although the majority of transgender employees across the country are still denied the medical care they need by insurance policies labeling procedures and treatments as “cosmetic” rather than medically necessary, this landmark announcement from Starbucks gives many people hope that other national companies will follow suit in the future.