Providing Inclusive Health Benefits for LGBTQ+ Employees

Across the United States, approximately 1.4 million adults identify as transgender. Yet due to fear of potential discrimination from providers, about a quarter of this population won’t seek medical attention when needed. This fear is not unfounded; across the nation, surveys show that about one-third of transgender people have been refused treatment or suffered verbal or physical abuse from a medical provider.

Over the past couple of decades, as the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights has progressed, advocates believe that the key to driving this conversation is through health care policies and coverage that offer equitable access to care. Businesses can play a key role in supporting transgender workers and protections for LGBTQ+ employees.

Between 2015 and 2018, the number of companies that paid for gender confirmation surgeries doubled, and as of 2020, 20.9% of companies offered some form of transgender-inclusive benefits.

As an insurance carrier, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care was one of the first to pioneer support benefits for transgender members, including the first in the region to approve top and bottom surgeries. Harvard Pilgrim also has a dedicated clinical care team to support transgender members. The team, comprised of nurses, social workers and others, have all completed LGBTQ+ competency and inclusion training, with particular employees additionally trained on transgender benefits and care management. As an employer, the value of offering policies like these can also demonstrate that employees are safe to be their authentic selves.

5 Simple Steps Toward a More Inclusive Workplace

Start at the top.
Employees lead by example, so employers can set the stage for inclusive practices by updating employee handbooks and offering sensitivity training.

Respect names and pronouns.
Employers can do this by asking newly hired employees about their names and pronouns. Encouraging staff to add their pronouns to their email signatures can help this practice too.

Protect privacy and health information.
The privacy, health information and medical history of employees should be respected and protected in every setting.

Allow freedom of appearance.
Employees should be able to dress how they feel most comfortable rather than enforcing gender-specific dress codes or hairstyles.

Keep policies updated and inclusive.
By knowing there are policies to support them, employees can feel empowered. Ensure your policies and benefits are reviewed annually to feature the most up-to-date offerings, and make employees aware of them.

Building a non-discriminatory workplace means building an accepting, all-inclusive work environment that may lead to better employee retention, morale and productivity. Steps like these can help shape a more inclusive workplace for transgender and non-binary employees.

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