Starbucks has announced that it is expanding its health insurance plans to include numerous procedures for transgender employees that are commonly classified by insurers as “cosmetic,” and therefore not subject to coverage.
The company’s health insurance plans have covered gender reassignment surgery since 2012, but the new plan includes procedures such as breast reduction or augmentation, facial feminization, hair transplants, electrolysis for hair removal and more, according to a company announcement this week.
“The approach was driven not just by the company’s desire to provide truly inclusive coverage, and by powerful conversations with transgender partners about how those benefits would allow them to truly be who they are,” said Starbucks Vice President of Benefits Ron Crawford.
Starbucks cited a 2014 findings from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute that among the 6,500 transgender adults who responded to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41 percent had attempted suicide at some point, compared to 4.6 percent of the total population.
The authors noted that the remarkably high incidence of suicide attempts among transgender people is likely “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.”
To shape the new benefits package Starbucks representatives worked alongside the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). According to Starbucks, it was the first company in the world to reach out to WPATH to translate its recommended standards of care into a medical benefits policy.
“I view this as a diagnosis with a treatment path,” Crawford said. “You have to think of it from an equity perspective.”