Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Starbucks Expands Transgender Employees' Healthcare Coverage

(image via Flickr/Yukiko Matsuoka)

Since 2012, employee healthcare plans for coffee company Starbucks has covered gender reassignment surgery for its transgender employees.

But now, the coffee giant has announced expanded coverage for trans employees including breast augmentation, breast reduction, facial feminization and hair transplants.

In exploring new options for trans employees, the coffee purveyor consulted with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Starbucks was the first company in the world to ask WPATH to help translate their recommended standards of care into a medical benefits policy, said Jamison Green, the immediate past president of WPATH, who worked with the company on the benefits package.

“Starbucks was not afraid to ask all the right questions and demand that people get the best possible care,” said Green. “We produced a list of the most crucial benefits and those that are deemed problematic to insurance companies, such as facial feminization and electrolysis.”

Many of the new procedures now available to Starbucks employees were considered ‘cosmetic’ by most insurance companies and therefore not covered. But for trans people, these are essential to trans people in their journey to be who they are.

Tate Buhrmester, 15 year employee of Starbucks, manages a store in Austin, Texas.

A 2014 report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute found that 41 percent of the 6,500 transgender adults who responded to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey had attempted suicide at some point, compared to the 4.6 percent of the overall population.

One reason for the high percentage of suicide attempts may be “due to distress related to barriers to obtaining transition-related health care, such as a lack of insurance coverage, inability to afford those procedures, or lack of access to providers,” the report authors wrote.

With suicide rates much higher for transgender people compared to the general population (4.6% versus 41%), having access to these procedures can literally be life-saving.

Plus, trans people can often have trouble finding trans-friendly healthcare providers. To address those barriers, Starbucks has advocates trained to work with trans employees to help them navigate the healthcare systems, find the proper providers and help in making sure claims are covered.

Read more about Starbucks’ announcement here.

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