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New Extended Employee Coverage Launched To Help People Transitioning

Sun Life Financial has officially expanded its extended employee-care plan to include gender affirmation coverage to help people who are transitioning.

“We know there can be a significant impact on an individual’s mental, emotional and physical well-being when they don’t feel connected to their gender,” said Marie-Chantal Côté, vice-president of market development at Sun Life Financial Canada.

While this will greatly evolve and diversify employee benefit plans, what is really important throughout this launch is the message that it sends from employers to their employees that take part in this plan.

This says loud and clear that they support a diverse workforce, they value their people, they want to empower them to embody their most authentic selves and their health care is very important to them. That’s pretty impactful when exemplifying what an inclusive company culture should look like.

How will gender affirmation coverage look in group health-care plans? 

While everyone’s experience with gender affirmation is different, Sun Life’s offering will provide financial support to plan members by reimbursing expenses covered by their workplace plan.

Here’s how it’s being broken down right now.

  • Core coverage: Covering basic surgical procedures not covered under provincial or territorial employee-benefit plans, such as Adam’s apple reduction and/or voice surgery.
  • Enhanced coverage: Offering additional coverage for surgical procedures to align feminine or masculine features to the transitioned gender, including facial bone reduction and/or cheek augmentation.

Embracing the new needs of what health and wellness should mean

The ultimate goal here is to meet the needs of all Canadians to empower them to live long and healthy lives.

When someone doesn’t feel connected to their gender, this transition can be a significant impact on their overall health. And as we evolve and mature our employee benefit plans, it’s compelling us to keep stretching the boundaries of how we define health and wellness.

Health has traditionally been seen as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not just viewed as the absence of disease. So when you look at health through the lens of referring to a state of complete emotional and physical well-being, then supporting our transgender workers through transition falls right in the middle of this definition.

Supporting Canadians through their gender affirmation journey

While this is breaking new grounds and is sparking new and thought-provoking conversations, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves here, just in the raw context of how much goes into making this new coverage successful.

Here’s a quick snapshot on my initial thoughts.

  1. It’s a huge expenditure: The costs, time and ongoing treatment associated with people transitioning is a huge expenditure. Not only is it an extensive financial undertaking, but it could be a two-year window for everything considered.

“People have been having gender affirming surgeries for some time. Some people have been doing it on their own dime, and now that that coverage is available, those employers will be more attractive to trans individuals.” – HR Reporter

So while this is a huge step forward by Sun Life to ignite change in this space, we won’t see an immediate uptick like we did with cannabis last year – just because of the potential costs and layers associated with this.

  1. Educational Component: I think it will be important to see the educational component come out in the workplace as well. One of the most extensive parts of being an ally to transgender individuals is learning what it means to be transgender, and having the tools and information available that will help you to change the world to be better for transgender people overall.
  1. There needs to have other gender options: On all enrolment forms, the only option for gender is male and female – and it shouldn’t be exclusively that. If carriers want to be truly supportive of all, then they need to have other gender-neutral options.

This is a monumental move to see a major carrier launching something that can make such a meaningful difference and help all plan members live happier and healthier lives.