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Transition Coverage and Clarity in Self-Insured Corporate Health Insurance Benefit Plans


Purpose: While many health insurance plans now cover at least some gender-affirming care for transgender persons, no study to date has examined contract language about gender-affirming care in self-insured corporate plans. We sought to evaluate private company offerings from the perspective of an employee, analyzing clarity as well as what gender-affirming care is covered or excluded. Methods: We coded 435 health insurance contracts from 40 U.S. self-insured corporations from 2019 for inclusion of 52 coverage aspects from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recommendations. We categorize contracts by clarity of the document and its inclusions and exclusions, and compare each company's contract ratings to their 2019 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Workplace Equality Index rating. Results: Findings reveal higher levels of total exclusions in contracts (9% here vs. 3% found in prior studies of more highly regulated plans), as well as extensive variation in clarity, coverage specifications, and types of exclusions. Facial confirmation surgery procedures are commonly excluded even in plans that affirm the WPATH guidelines. Twenty-five percent of the companies in the study offered at least one contract with a categorical exclusion. HRC ratings did not match up to our ratings of gender-affirming coverage. Conclusion: Legal complexity has resulted in a patchwork of continued health insurance exclusions of gender-affirming care even as coverage has expanded. Lack of transparency and clarity also contributes to challenges in understanding one's own coverage as well as mapping the national picture of transgender inclusion in health care plans.

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