Midwestern supermarket chain The Kroger Co. will offer full health insurance coverage for transgender employees' specific medical needs from next year, a company spokesperson confirmed to Fusion this afternoon.
Kroger made the announcement on Friday on the company's internal social networking site:
We are excited to announce that The Kroger Co. has added transgender health benefits for eligible employees enrolled in an Anthem BCBS administered plan offered under the company-sponsored health insurance plan… Beginning January 1, 2016, medical procedures including surgery and drug therapy for gender reassignment will be covered up to a $100,000 lifetime maximum for eligible associates and their dependents.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that a Kroger employee and transgender woman, Brittney McGannon, posted the news on her Facebook page on Friday. “I am pretty excited. I never thought when I came out three years ago that with a little bit of work, I could help make a big change and help so many other people,” McGannon told the newspaper. “I never thought that would happen.”
The new benefits will only apply to employees signed up for insurance through the company's plan with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and not through the United Food and Commercial Workers' union, which covers some Kroger workers.
Transgender people face significant barriers to getting basic health care needs taken care of, from doctors with discriminatory attitudes to hospitals simply turning them away. Hormone replacement therapy is vital for some transgender patients, but can be hard to access because of stigma and a lack of education about trans patients' needs. The experiences of transgender Americans being let down by the medical system inspired people to share their stories using the tag #transhealthfail earlier this year.
Only nine states and Washington D.C. have specific laws banning health insurance discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Ohio, where Kroger is headquartered, is not one of those states with protections.