Starbucks announced it will cover surgeries for transgender employees, and this is progress

Finally, some good news from Starbucks. In a June 25th press release, the coffee chain announced that it will begin covering medical procedures for transgender employees. Starbucks worked with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to come up with its new health insurance plan, the first corporation in the world to do so.

Starbucks has offered employees health insurance plans that cover gender reassignment surgeries since 2012. But this new plan will also cover procedures for U.S. transgender employees that were initially deemed “cosmetic” and are therefore rarely covered, such as breast reduction or augmentation surgery (aka top surgery), facial feminization, and hair transplants.

Ron Crawford, vice president of benefits at Starbucks, said in the release that the decision was driven "by the company’s desire to provide truly inclusive coverage, and by powerful conversations with transgender [employees] about how those benefits would allow them to truly be who they are."

The company says it has also brought in trained advocates to help guide those in the transition process. These advocates will help Starbucks employees find proper health care providers and make sure their medical claims are covered.

Although more companies are including transgender-related medical services in their employee insurance plans, none have gone so far to include these types of surgeries. Crawford noted that he hopes that Starbucks will be the role model for other companies that want to do right by their trans employees.

Starbucks shared the story of Tate Buhrmester, one of the company’s trans employees, in the release.

Buhrmester said of the new plan, “Starbucks is taking a stand and standing up for trans people and saying that our procedures aren’t just cosmetic — they are lifesaving. They’re affirming. They’re vitally important to trans people and it’s not something just to be seen as a cosmetic procedure that’s optional, because for a lot of people, it’s not optional for them.”

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