It now includes procedures that were previously considered cosmetic

By Mike Pomranz
June 28, 2018

Regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity, plenty of Americans still have one thing in common: Their health benefits suck. Meanwhile, Starbucks has prided itself on trying to offer even part-time employees comprehensive health coverage. Now, the coffee chain has announced it is making that coverage even more comprehensive for transgender workers by including many procedures that were previously considered cosmetic.

Starbucks’ benefits program is called “Your Special Blend,” and as materials for the program explain, the medical coverage already offers many things other company’s might exclude such as mental health and chemical dependency treatment, transgender surgery, ABA autism therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. But this week, Starbucks announced it will also be adding “a host of procedures for transgender partners in the U.S. that were previously considered cosmetic, and therefore not covered, such as breast reduction or augmentation surgery, facial feminization, hair transplants and more.”

“The approach was driven not just by the company’s desire to provide truly inclusive coverage, and by powerful conversations with transgender partners about how those benefits would allow them to truly be who they are,” Ron Crawford, vice president of benefits at Starbucks, said in the announcement.

Starbucks also says that it’s the first company in the world to reach out to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to ask the group to help turn their recommended standards of care into an actual medical benefits policy. “Starbucks was not afraid to ask all the right questions and demand that people get the best possible care,” said Jamison Green, a past president of WPATH who worked with Starbucks on the initiative. “We produced a list of the most crucial benefits and those that are deemed problematic to insurance companies, such as facial feminization and electrolysis.”

Both Crawford and Green emphasized that for some transgender people, getting these so-called “cosmetic” procedures can actually be “life-saving.” “It’s a huge lifting of a burden when you are a trans person and you need to have certain treatments in order to actually stay alive, to realize that you are not going to face horrendous obstacles,” Green continued. “It’s like an asthmatic being able to breath.”

“Nobody else is doing this,” Crawford later added. “We would love to see more employers doing this.”

To be fair, it’d be nice if more employers were offering decent health coverage period. But at least Starbucks is attempting to lead the way in going above and beyond.