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By Jacquie Lee
UNITE HERE HEALTH expanded insurance coverage for services specific to transgender workers at the beginning of the year, the union announced Jan. 31.
Employees of the union already had the benefit. The expansion means the 220,000 UNITE HERE members and their dependents who are eligible for health-care coverage can avail themselves of the new benefit, UNITE HERE HEALTH told Bloomberg Law.
“We didn’t create the benefit because of high demand but because of principles,” the health provider’s spokeswoman said.
The benefit is available to patients being treated for gender dysphoria. It covers costs related to surgery, hormone therapy, counseling, doctors’ appointments, and lab work.
The expansion comes after the Trump administration announced that it’s providing more civil-rights protections for health-care workers who refuse to perform certain procedures they feel violate their moral or religious beliefs. Doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers can file a complaint with a new civil rights division within the Department of Health and Human Services if they feel they’ve been forced to violate their moral code of conduct.
The division, which was unveiled Jan. 18, has gotten pushback from LGBTQ advocates who fear the new protections will allow hospital staff to discriminate against gay, lesbian, and transgender patients.
If a doctor refused to treat a transgender union member because the doctor believed doing so would violate his or her religious or moral beliefs, UNITE HERE HEALTH would help the patient find another physician, the spokeswoman said.
UNITE HERE HEALTH is run by a board made up of both employers and union representatives. Both sides voted to expand these benefits.
People covered by the UHH plan are eligible for transgender benefits only if they’ve been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, according to the guidelines. The benefits also cover children or dependents of union members, although a person has to be 18 or older to qualify for surgery.
The union hopes the extended benefits will help close the economic gap between transgender workers and their colleagues, the spokeswoman said.
“Receiving these benefits through UNITE HERE HEALTH represents a crucial step in achieving greater equality for our members,” she said.
UNITE HERE represents workers across the hospitality, gaming, and food service industries.
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