Chelsea Manning: Better Off With a Corporate Health Plan

Big employers are increasingly covering transgender-inclusive health benefits
In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Pfc. Bradley Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick Photograph by U.S. Army via AP Images

In seeking military medical coverage for gender reassignment therapy, Private Bradley Manning—who now plans to live as a woman named Chelsea—likely faces a long legal battle. “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder,” said a spokeswoman for Fort Leavenworth, the military prison where Manning is being held for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning would have better luck in the corporate world. While the military may not cover transgender medical health issues, corporations increasingly do.

In 2011, 40 percent of Fortune 1000 companies included transgender-inclusive health benefits, up from 1 percent in 2004, according to Human Rights Campaign. Meanwhile, 39 percent of Fortune 500 companies covered transgender health costs in 2011, as did 25 percent of Fortune 100 companies, and 26 percent of American Lawyer 1000 firms. (This HRC white paper includes a long list of companies with more-equitable plans).

Transgender health benefits covered by corporations include hormone replacement therapy, mental health counseling, and some surgical procedures for employees and their dependents. And while HRC points out that “[m]ost U.S. health insurance policies have exclusions listed on transition-related care—right alongside those for cosmetic or experimental care” (pdf)—workplaces are undeniably becoming more equitable.

Back in 2008, the American Medical Association also announced that it supports “public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder as recommended by a physician.”