For Immediate Release: October 20, 2006
From: The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC)
Contact: NTAC Chair, Vanessa Edwards Foster; Houston, Texas
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Phone: 832-483-9901
HRC Corporate Equality Index Not Viewed as Equal
On September 19, 2006, the Human Right's Campaign (HRC) published their yearly Corporate Equality Index (CEI) Survey. The index indicated that 138 of the largest companies have scored 100 percent perfect scores and that 68 percent implemented at least one wellness benefit for transgender employees.
This news was met with a resounding applause from many in LGBT circles. As the people around the community patted each other on the back for another job well done while celebrating advances in corporate diversity, other voices rose to counter the celebration.
For the transgender community, the survey’s results were cause for concern rather than for celebration. The concern was that the structuring of the questions led to answers that covered basic care, but avoided addressing whether physician-mandated transgender-specific health care issues were covered. As a result, any answer on basic questions received a full 5 point grade. Meanwhile these same employers could still have health policies in place to deny, say, hysterectomies if it was deemed transgender-related.
The CEI Survey contains a statement by HRC that set the criteria used to score the survey as follows:
“Some transgender people are denied health insurance coverage for certain treatments and procedures because of "transgender exclusion" clauses in health insurance plans and, furthermore, limitations on what procedures are deemed "medically necessary." HRC recommends that, whenever possible, employers make available company provided health care coverage for medically necessary treatments and procedures, as defined by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association's (HBIGDA) Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders. These procedures can include mastectomy, hysterectomy, phalloplasty, vaginoplasty and other related procedures.
Based upon HRC's recommendations to companies, we anticipated that, in order to receive a perfect score, they would require employer's health plans provide coverage for medically necessary treatments and procedures as defined by the HBIGDA Standards of Care.
For example, one of the questions on the survey asks if the company excludes transgender employees from medically necessary surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy. If your answer is no, your company gets 5 points.
As an example, if a Female-To-Male transsexual employee is diagnosed with cervical cancer and the employer's health care plan offers coverage for a hysterectomy for other similarly situated employees, this employer may be among the 68 percent who implemented “at least one wellness benefit for transgender employees.” Does this reflect that the employer has health benefits that provide transgender employees coverage for "medically necessary" procedures related to gender identity under the HBIGDA Standards of Care? No. What it means is that transgender employees would not be denied treatment that would be available for all other employees.
The controversy is that survey will lead the reader to believe that all health care for transgender employees is covered, especially based upon the reference in the survey question to the HBIGDA Standards. In reality, that may or very well may not be the case. Based on the survey, one can’t discern the employers who might cover transgender-related health care from the ones who will simply offer basic treatment.
“The CEI survey results pertaining to transgender health care are deceptive and reward and encourage employers to meet a meaningless standard,” said NTAC Board member Ethan St. Pierre. He pointed out that “instead of congratulating 68 percent of employers for offering a health care benefit to transgender employees, the GLBT community should be outraged that 32 percent of employers deny” even the most basic medical care to transgender employees which they offer to other employees.
“HRC has an opportunity to set a meaningful standard for employers which could actually lead to coverage for medically necessary procedures for transgender employees,”
NTAC calls upon HRC to revise the CEI survey questions to recognize those employers who offer health care plans to their employees that do not contain exclusions for medically necessary treatments and procedures mandated by the HBIGDA Standards of Care. “Wouldn't it make sense for HRC to measure how many employers have health plans which provide coverage for treatments regarded as medically necessary according to the HBIGDA Standards of Care?” St. Pierre commented.
For now the question remains: what portion of the 68 percent of employer's health plans provide coverage for medically necessary procedures which are directly related to an employee's transgender condition? Then we can all congratulate those who have truly implemented meaningful health policies and encourage others to do likewise.
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Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender-variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.
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