Over the last few years, International Adviser has been at the forefront of reporting on issues the LGBT+ community faces when dealing with the financial services sector.
Our latest investigation sought to uncover any difficulties transgender people encounter when taking out insurance, and all the complexities that come with dealing with a trans client, such as gender changes, type of cover offered, and availability of products.
Surprisingly, IA discovered that the process of obtaining cover and changing someone’s gender has become fairly straightforward for trans people, meaning that getting insurance is also a lot more streamlined than it used to be.
But to understand the experiences transgender client have when dealing with insurance companies, IA caught up with Leng, a trans man, who works as a diversity and inclusion consultant in the UK.
Despite the improvements noted above, he said trans and non-binary people still face many hurdles because “they’re just not recognised”.
“I think the main problem is that insurance is very binary. Either you are male or female to begin with,” he said, adding that it can “sometimes impact what levels of cover you’re automatically entitled to.”
Is it too expensive?
Leng found several limitations when it came to the types of policies available in workplaces, as well as privately.
Given that it can take up to three years to get an initial appointment with the NHS, a lot of trans people are forced to “self-fund” to speed things up. But that can be very expensive.
He said that this is where businesses and employers can step in and offer coverage to their staff who are transitioning.
One of the “pushbacks” he found within workplaces is that companies will often dismiss the idea of including gender reassignment procedures in their plans because it can be “expensive”.
But Leng argued the cost can be easily “absorbed” as only a small proportion of a workforce will want or need that cover. “It is on a case-by-case basis.”
Share of responsibility
But he believes the blame should not sit squarely on the shoulders of the employer, as a lot of insurance providers don’t automatically offer the gender reassignment cover to businesses, if at all.
“I found that quite interesting that you have to really ask around. I find it really hilarious that they’ll say, ‘we’re really bespoke, we want it to work for your business’, and then [when asked about gender reassignment cover], they’ll say ‘No, we don’t do that’.”
But outside of workplace plans, things are not any easier, Leng said, as often providers will not advertise the levels of coverage on offer for trans clients.
“I haven’t seen any that have been very public or open about having policies for transgender people.
“I suppose this is where it becomes a bit of a pedantic splitting of hairs area, because there are some health insurance policies that do cover cosmetic treatments.
“But at the same time, it is arguable that, if it’s part of your gender reassignment, it’s not just like wanting a nose job, there’s a bit more to it. That means that they’re not being so open on that.”
Lack of representation
While some strides have been made to include trans people in the insurance sector, Leng believes they are entirely missing from the conversation surrounding their needs when it comes to getting cover.
“Those that think about insurance policies, or what services they cover, forget about a whole demographic, and I find that very interesting.”
There is a disconnect, Leng said, between the people making the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions at the insurance companies and the trans community in need of cover.
“Just because you don’t need it, doesn’t mean someone else might not.”
Leng believes that, with the cooperation of insurance companies, transitioning could be a much less stressful life experience.
“If they can provide appointments with a specialist, which you sometimes need to see, that would speed up the process, or at least have it so that people could have the right letters written for them by specialists, which means they can change their name legally, or change their passport, or get on hormones.
“In the UK, some GPs can and some can’t sign off hormones, or some just don’t want to. But, generally, if you’ve got a letter from a gender specialist and the right endocrinology tests that look at what you might need in terms of hormone treatment, that’s an area that I could see people claiming for.
“And that is something that should be included in more policies, at least in terms of cover that people could be applying for, because that can actually help someone start their transition process because the bigger surgeries take a lot longer to happen.”
Help from insurers would not only mean a more streamlined transitioning process, it would also open up access to specialists, especially those focusing on gender reassignment, many of whom have moved to the private medical sector.
Leng said that, even if trans people would need to pay a premium for these kinds of services, at least they would be on offer and made available to them.
In addition, some transgender people feel that most of the currently available protection policies do not really fit with their needs.
Leng said they are “not broad enough”. “It’s about trans people trying to closely align to whatever has already been pre-set.”
He added that they are based on people who will never need to transition, which makes them “un-inclusive” and not representative of society.
That is why Leng believes some of the changes should start at the underwriting process.
“There’s a massive opportunity being missed, there are a lot of customers that you’ve potentially just driven away.”
He said that if firms want to be the “insurers of choice”, they might not be able to achieve that “by completely ignoring a whole demographic of people”.
“I think that’s the thing that needs challenging at the moment, or at least to be reformed.”