Starbucks Announces Unprecedented, Comprehensive Health Benefits For Trans Employees

Starbucks' health insurance plans have covered gender reassignment surgery since 2012, but earlier this week, the company announced a sweeping new set of benefits for its transgender employees covered by company health insurance. Coverage now includes procedures that were previously deemed cosmetic, including breast reduction or augmentation surgery, facial feminization, and hair transplants.

Starbucks worked with World Professional Association For Transgender Health (WPATH) for more than a year to come up with a set of benefits that conformed to that organization's recommendations; Jamison Green, the immediate past president of WPATH who worked with Starbucks on this initiative, said the coffee chain is the first company in the world to request WPATH translate its recommended standards of care into a medical benefits policy.

Green says that while a newly covered procedure like facial hair electrolysis may seem superficial, it could be "a life-saving procedure" for a trans employee. To help trans workers find doctors who will best be able to serve their specific needs, the company employs advocates trained in navigating the gender-transition process, who can help identify providers in-network and assist with making sure claims are covered.

According to Starbucks' announcement, for more than a decade the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has tracked whether major employers rated in the Corporate Equality Index offer at least one transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage plan: In 2002, none did. In 2009, 49 did. This year, 750 offered at least one trans-inclusive health plan.

But many of those plans don't include procedures deemed to be cosmetic, making the Starbucks plan an especially progressive one.

"It makes trans people feel like they are people," Starbucks employee Tate Buhrmester, who is trans, says in the Starbucks announcement. "Like they matter and their health matters."