Starbucks Launches a Game-Changing Transgender Worker Policy

Starbucks has announced a new policy for transgender staff that could create a leading care package, including gender affirmation health care coverage that many top insurers still do not currently cover.

Starbucks has actually covered certain gender affirmation procedures since its 2012 policy update, but this mostly included procedures that are considered “necessary” rather than elective. These include certain genital change surgeries and hormonal care.

However, for many trans individuals, such interventions are not high priority. Instead, they look to things like facial feminization or masculinization surgeries, breast augmentations or reductions and other so-called “cosmetic” procedures to help them present their gender to the world. Most healthcare packages do not cover these procedures as they are wrongly classed as something that is purely elective rather than health care treatment that is necessary for feeling gender-aligned.

Starbucks is changing that.

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

Green is the previous president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) which consulted on these changes.

Affirmation-related surgeries can be incredibly expensive and are simply out of reach for most Americans as out-of-pocket expenses. Yet, despite trans rights having come a long way in the past decade, medical insurers are still highly conservative and even dangerously out of step with what procedures they will allow under their policies. This has a real knock-on effect for trans people, particularly in the workplace.

For example, someone who has affirmed their female gender in later life may unfortunately have developed a characteristically male facial structure during puberty that, they feel, means they now do not present in a way that matches their identity. This is a characteristic that is incredibly difficult to hide, and one that may dramatically impact a person’s well-being and cause real psychological distress. Yet, until relatively recently, such surgeries were not even considered as having true worth in affirmation care coverage.

That’s why Starbucks’ policy is so important: it has actually listened to what trans people say they want covered, and stands to help put their workers needs first–at least, in this regard.

Starbucks is a major brand in the service industry, with 8,222 company-operated stores in the U.S. in 2017. That’s a significant proportion of the workforce, and it sets a benchmark for other service industry companies in particular.

Ron Crawford, vice president of benefits at Starbucks, has said  that this was also part of Starbucks’ aim. “The approach was driven not just by the company’s desire to provide truly inclusive coverage, [but] by powerful conversations with transgender partners about how those benefits would allow them to truly be who they are. I view this as a diagnosis with a treatment path. You have to think of it from an equity perspective.”

Will this change how other employers approach transgender healthcare?

It might. We saw in the past decade how one or two companies taking a lead on, for example, spousal health care coverage for same-gender couples led to more companies doing the same. What will be critical is getting other major players to join within the relative short term so that this kind of coverage becomes a new standard offering.

Companies with particular influence could be Microsoft and Adobe, which already have trans-inclusive health benefits to some degree, through to finance and energy corporations who have significant influence on wider market trends.

What’s just as interesting here is how this change could, if it is adopted more broadly, effect the overall health insurance market by normalizing that patient led-coverage is not just a novel idea, but should be standard. In effect, insurers need to listen to LGBTQIA people about their needs and meet those based on facts, not ideology.

Gender affirmation health care isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic right, and Starbucks’ new policy announcement makes that clear. Let’s hope that as this rolls out it, provides a recipe for change for other companies too.

Photo via Pixabay.

38 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara8 months ago

good idea

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara8 months ago

th

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Cindy S
Cindy Smith9 months ago

good

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Lesa D
Past Member 9 months ago

thank you Starbucks!!!

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Lesa D
Past Member 9 months ago

thank you Steve...

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Amanda M
Amanda M9 months ago

BRAVO to Starbucks for recognizing the rights of transgenders as PEOPLE! I hope this paves the way for other companies who see that ALL people deserve care and respect to follow in their footsteps. If my budget permitted it, I'd be stopping in the nearest Starbucks to treat myself to a sandwich or a San Pellegrino (I don't drink coffee) a lot more often just to show my support and say thanks!

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Winnie A
Winn Adams9 months ago

Noted

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pam w
pam w9 months ago

How about THAT? Good for them....good for any business with compassion and common sense!

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Leanne K
Leanne K9 months ago

Its 2018 and should have been done years ago. Same with every business.

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