AUSTIN, Texas -- Starbucks has announced it will expand its health care coverage for transgender people and their families.
The move is seen as a game-changer.
Starbucks began offering health insurance plans that covered gender reassignment surgery in 2012. It’s now offering coverage for a host of procedures that were previously considered cosmetic.
“As a trans man, being able to see that Starbucks is coming out and say that we’re taking the next step, and we’re making sure to do what the trans community needs – not what we think they need – is really a huge step,” said Lou Weaver with Equality Texas.
Coverage now includes breast reduction or augmentation surgery, facial feminization and electrolysis.
“Procedures that are needed by the trans community are considered cosmetic. It’s devaluing what the transgender community is saying. It’s devaluing what the people in the community are saying,” Weaever said. “This is needed. This is wanted. This is something that needs to be covered because it’s medically necessary.”
Tate Behrmester is a manager at an Austin Starbucks. He said his journey transitioning was nerve-wracking.
“When I would think about it and think about coming out at work and coming out to my customers and my family and everything, it made me really anxious,” Behrmester said.
Behrmester made the decision to move forward.
“I made the decision to start transitioning. [It was] probably one of the most depressed times of my life, and before that just a lot of anxiety because I knew I was making a decision that in the back of my mind I knew would make me feel really good,” he said.
“It gives people hope. It gives people access to procedures that they need that are life-saving, that they haven’t had access to before,” Weaver said.
The hope is other companies will adopt the policy.
“It shouldn’t be that hard. We cover cancer, we cover diabetes, we cover thyroid problems. Why can we not cover life-saving procedures that a transgender person needs?” Weaver asked. “All you have to do is stop saying ‘I’m going to exclude this population or this group of people.’”
A 2014 report states that 41 percent of transgender people have contemplated suicide at some point. Community members say this step is one in the direction of equality.