LGBT Group Seeks Employer Coverage of Gender Transition Procedures

By SHRM Online staff Mar 2, 2012

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization in the U.S., is calling on employers to provide “transgender-inclusive health care” that includes coverage for gender transition treatments and surgery.

HRC's annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is a national benchmarking survey used by many diversity managers to evaluate their policies and benefits for LGBT employees. In 2009, HRC announced that earning 100 percent on the 2012 CEI would require employers to offer at least "one firm-wide available health insurance plan that affords coverage for medically necessary transition-related care." The internationally accepted standards of care are maintained and published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), according to HRC.

The HRC Foundation's February 2012 white paper, Transgender-Inclusive Health Care Coverage and the Corporate Equality Index, is"a primer on transgender-inclusive health care coverage, including relevant concepts and vocabulary as well as specific guidance on meeting the CEI criteria." It reports that the 2012 CEI, released in December 2011, rated 850 large U.S. companies, including all Fortune 500 firms. Employers that provided transgender-inclusive health care coverage increased from 49 in the 2009 CEI to more than 200 in the 2012 CEI, according to the report.

“Up until the last few years, nearly all U.S. employer-based health insurance plans contained 'transgender exclusions' that limited insurance coverage for transition-related treatment and other care,” the report states.

“Corporate America is leading the charge for fairness for LGBT workers,” said Kathryn Friedman, director of the HRC Workplace Project. “To attract and retain the best and brightest talent, employers must treat their LGBT employees equally, including in the administration of health care benefits."

The white paper cautions that “sex affirmation procedure" is a more respectful and accurate term for "sex reassignment" and defines the term as "the process of re-aligning the body to achieve congruence with internal gender identity. This may involve hormone therapy, surgery and/or other procedures. Preferred language varies, however 'sex change' is typically not preferred nor is it accurate.”

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