For the first time in 2016, the number of US employers paying for employee’s gender reassignment surgeries will exceed 10 percent of businesses. Companies are becoming more sensitive to the needs of transgender individuals in the workforce. In larger companies, of 20,000 or more employees, the news is even better for the trans community. Twenty-nine percent of these large businesses cover gender reassignment surgery, according to benefits consultancy, Mercer.
“Employers are increasingly covering gender reassignment surgery as they increasingly respond to workforce diversity,” Barry Schilmeister, a senior consultant for Mercer said. “Covering such procedures under the employee health plan, and the treatment protocols leading to them, recognize the medically necessary nature of that treatment and, for many employers, a social responsibility that they view comes with being an employer of choice.”
For gender reassignment surgery, the actual genital reconstruction is what is paid by most companies and insurers. Very rarely, if at all, are other procedures, such as breast augmentation or Adam’s apple shaving covered. For example, Caitlyn Jenner’s “facial feminization surgery” is unlikely to be covered by most health plans, as it is considered more of a cosmetic, superficial surgery. Unfortunately, this is all the more reason that Jenner’s recent comments on presentation are so hard to hear for many trans people who don’t have similar financial assets.
In order to qualify for gender reassignment surgery, health insurers may require letters and other pre-requisite documentation from health care professionals to prove “well-documented gender dysphoria.” Most health plans also require that the patients be at least 18 years of age.
While we still have a long way to go until all businesses cover gender reassignment procedures, we are at least moving in the right direction. Let’s hope that more insurers and employers start tuning into their trans workforce.