I recently came across this article, published by Business Insurance with the following headline “Few employers offer transgender benefits“. As a student in the industry, I admit to being a voracious reader when it comes to any topic around protecting a workforce, a company or improving health through employee benefits … but I purposely try to stray from political content. In working with our clients, our job is not to politicize the healthcare system, but to explain and assist in meeting the growing body of regulatory obligations imposed on our middle-market to Fortune 1,000 clients.
This article, along with the growing news coverage around bathroom use for transgender, prompted me to investigate exactly what percentage of the population here is impacted. According to two of the largest surveys ever conducted on the topic, approximately .3 percent or 700,000 people in the United States identify as transgender. Yet, according to a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 12 percent of companies now offer transgender-inclusive health care benefits. Among these employers, 8% covered gender-reassignment surgery. Among the companies with 10,000 or more employees, 27% of employers offered transgender benefits, whereas only 4% of those with 50 or fewer employees do. Employers are expanding employee benefits to recruit the best employees, including LGBT workers. “Offering transgender-inclusive benefits is another step toward meeting the needs of a diverse workforce,” and “I expect going forward, we’ll see even more organizations offering transgender benefits as part of their overall health care offerings.” Julie Stich, director of research at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans said in a recent statement. The survey was based on the responses of 577 human resources and benefits professionals, trustees, administrators and industry experts from close to 20 different industries.
Why is it that 27% of Fortune 500 sized employers are going to the trouble to offer a benefit that will impact less than one half of one percent of the population? The reason is that employee benefit plans are reflecting social norms and a growing tolerance for political correctness. Why not support the plight of any one particular group that is being discriminated against? Private health plans are fast becoming an extension of the corporate brand. Part of the beauty of our free market economy enables Frito-Lay to make and promote a bag of limited edition “Rainbow” Doritos. I was told they sold out in minutes at the concession stands during the last Kathy Griffin comedy tour.
Here is where I am strongly opposed to Ms. Stich and feel differently about her prediction of expanding benefits for transgender. Demanding benefits for transgenders is not about covering a certain class of employees. That was what was argued under the SCOTUS decision requiring all employers in the U.S. to extend benefits to same-sex couples on the same terms as different sex couples. The last time I checked men, women and children are covered under corporate health plans. This issue is really about accommodating less than one half of one percent of the population to cover a benefit that costs around $25,000 for the first year of surgery.
From 2007 to 2014, for every $1.00 dollar of wage increases, medical costs have risen a staggering $2.56. The healthcare ATM has run out of money. Whether you are on the state legislature, school board, mayor or council, know that the American people would rather see our public policy makers and employers tackle issues that impact every American, not just the .3% of Americans dominating social media. Here are some ideas … let’s try to address crime and safety, drought, education, job retraining, obesity, chronic disease, pregnancy, childbirth, addiction, and mental illness, to name a few.
To Business Insurance and other print media covering my profession, please do not print another asinine article about why employers should be guilted into covering benefits for those struggling with gender identify. Let’s not forget to ask how the couple paying out of pocket for in-vitro feels about this. Let’s also consider the family paying out of pocket for autism, speech therapy or braces. Maybe the guy with male-pattern baldness inquiring about Propecia or the female with back pain that is told breast reduction surgery is not covered by your plan will be a thumbs up on covering transgender benefits. Let’s ask the founder of the company who just took a pay cut to cover rising wage and benefit costs how he or she feels. Each understands that a finite amount of resources carries judicious responsibility (Sorry guys … I’m just not feeling the Bern here).
If your struggling with your gender, as a Christian I will love you and pray for you … I will not pretend to understand your struggle having not walked in your shoes … but you are still provided benefits like everyone else under the plan. This benefit counselor would advise his clients to share with any individual struggling with gender identity to contact their EAP, health provider, family member, church, or the Kardashians. If “Pat” chooses to go forward with transgender related surgery, it can be funded and paid under a tax-favored health account as a Section 213D (IRC) expense. Draft money each paycheck into your tax-favored account and pay for it the same way others pay for their medical wants or needs, regardless of the hand they were dealt in life.