Internet trend-setter Google has joined the ranks of those leading another trend: offering fully inclusive health care benefits to transgender employees. Effective immediately, the company’s employee benefits policies will cover all medically necessary procedures and services for transgender employees in accordance with the Standards of Care maintained by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). These procedures include treatments commonly related to gender transition, such as hormone therapy, reconstructive chest and genital surgery, and mental health services.
In addition to WPATH, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Endocrine Society, and other major medical professional associations have determined that transition-related care is safe, effective, and medically necessary. However, access to these medically necessary services is limited for many transgender people by insurance exclusions that specifically deny coverage for care related to being transgender.
The vast majority of medically necessary services denied to transgender people by insurance industry exclusions are routinely covered for non-transgender people and are all likely to be part of the list of essential benefits to be determined by the Department of Health and Human Services in the spring. These services include:
— coverage for services that may be involved in gender transition but that are also often medically necessary for non-transgender people, such as hormone therapy, hysterectomy, mental health services, and reconstructive surgery
— coverage for routine preventive screenings, such as screenings for ovarian, cervical, and prostate cancer, and other services that are typically associated with one gender or another
— coverage for services that are not transition-related, such setting a broken bone or treating pneumonia
Thanks to Google’s size, the company was able to negotiate with its current insurance providers to remove exclusions and to affirm that coverage is available for all services that a doctor has deemed medically necessary for a transgender employee. Google’s move to end discrimination against its transgender employees in health coverage is part of a growing trend by companies focused on winning the battle to attract and retain a highly qualified and competitive workforce. According to the 2011 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), 85 companies, including eight of the top 20 Fortune 500 companies and 26 of the American Lawyer top 200 law firms, already provide these benefits to their more than 2.6 million employees. In 2012, the CEI will begin requiring all companies that it rates to offer fully transgender-inclusive benefits in order to score a full 100 percent in its rankings.
These companies have consistently found that the costs involved in providing inclusive benefits for their transgender employees are negligible. And with overwhelming majorities of Americans agreeing that transgender people deserve protection from discrimination, there’s no better time for forward-thinking companies to cover all the basics for their transgender employees by ending discrimination in health care benefits.