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Bridging the Gap: Revolutionizing Healthcare Access for the Transgender Community

When it comes to transgender issues, most people probably first think of pronouns, washrooms, and clothing – the simplest forms of gender self-expression. In reality, the transgender experience cannot be simplified into such digestible, bite-sized issues. In a report released by American Progress in 2021, transgender adults are at a considerably higher risk of mental and physical health issues than their cisgender counterparts, as can be seen by the data below, as presented by the Center for American Progress. On top of stress caused by harassment and discrimination, institutional barriers prevent transgender adults from accessing care, resulting in the transgender population remaining significantly underserved by medical systems such as the American one. In the age of convenience via digitization, there is an opportunity for insurance providers to work with the transgender and gender-diverse community (henceforth referred to as the ‘transgender community’).

The root cause of this issue is straightforward: discrimination, and yet discrimination proves to be a complex knot to untangle. According to American Progress, 2 in 3 transgender adults worry their health evaluations are affected by their sexual orientation or gender identity (2021), with an even greater proportion worried about their identity causing negative effects on their evaluations, as seen in the chart below. In addition, almost half of transgender adults report negative or discriminatory experiences with a health care provider (2021) – this can include misgendering or deadnaming, refusal of care, physical abuse and/or abusive language. Furthermore, 51% of transgender adults have avoided necessary medical care due to lack of affordability (2021), and this number is even higher for transgender adults that also identify as people of colour (POC).

In an age where digitization and partnerships between insurance providers and other related service providers have given rise to the ‘one stop shop’ model, aimed at dismantling the old insurance concept of ‘risk recovery’ and building services for ‘risk prevention,’ an opportunity to advance the experience of this community is open. Lack of access to health insurance leaves thousands of transgender individuals to seek unregulated, and sometimes illegal, access to hormones such as testosterone or estrogen to avoid cost-related barriers and systemic discrimination, illustrating the depth of the opportunity at hand.


 This, of course, does not come without its challenges. Discrimination is difficult to overcome, especially in a market as diverse as Canada and the United States. The ever-changing regulatory policy in a fast-paced and evolving political environment – including state bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth – makes establishing long-term product offerings difficult. However, Insurtech provides a unique opportunity in this regard: with the low upfront costs and existing digital infrastructure, insurance providers can avoid the high sunk costs of setting up digitally available insurance products, minimizing financial risk and uniquely positioning insurance providers to take advantage of this market opportunity.


Furthermore, this unique political and economic environment provides an opportunity to go to market with a unique solution that will positively impact an insurance provider’s reputation with ESG – especially important in a time when authenticity surrounding ESG principles and social activism is so highly valued, yet with perceived ethics surrounding insurance companies severely underperforming.


Obviously, with such polarizing schools of thought surrounding this community, offering these services can be tricky. However, there are three important aspects when committing to this market: transparency, accessibility, and education. Communicating with members of the transgender community when designing offerings will prove to be valuable, in addition to ensuring representation within the staff assigned to administer it. This act of communication shows authentic dedication to the transgender community and will allow for a foundation of trust to be built. Furthermore, maintaining that trust with open communication between customers and the service provider may prove to be just as valuable, making sure customers are able to voice their opinions freely and have them genuinely heard.


Secondly, accessibility will be valuable for insurance providers. Accessibility comes in many forms: overcoming the financial barrier, ensuring trans-competent partnerships and access to necessary medical care. Amongst all Americans, lack of affordability is the largest barrier when it comes to purchasing health insurance (73.1% of uninsured Americans report financial barriers). However, 1 in 3 transgender adults report an annual household income below $25,000, demonstrating both the need for insurance amongst this market, but also the need for affordability, both in regard to policy costs and coverage of medical expenses, such as hormones. Providers can also integrate concepts of the ‘one stop shop’ model by partnering with trusted trans-competent practitioners. This would save customers the time of conducting their own independent search, reducing a significant pain point for this customer segment – this can also help lower the financial barrier via collective negotiation. Furthermore, these partnerships would provide access to necessary medical care, allowing the 51% of transgender adults avoiding care due to discrimination to find a supportive environment that allows them to get the care they need.


Finally, the last valuable dimension of emphasis that is valuable for an endeavour of this matter is education. This includes educating healthcare providers and insurance agents about the needs of the transgender community and the specifics of trans-inclusive care, as well as educating members of the transgender community about the resources available to them. Framing this type of insurance product as a social movement would allow for easier penetration of the specific segment, and running an education and awareness campaign would be a great way to perform outreach and build awareness of the product and the company. Not only would this ensure the safety and empowerment of the provider’s clientele, it would also promote a sense of authenticity and allow it to stand out in the current market.


Regardless of the specific approach, taking a people-centric, proactive and authentic stance on insurance is undoubtedly a method of differentiation, especially to certain groups of consumers that perceive much of the current corporate social justice approaches to be performative and inauthentic. Paired with a social movement-based marketing plan, ensuring transgender adults are able to seek the healthcare they require is not only an opportunity within the market, but also a chance for insurance and Insurtech providers to protect one of the most underserved communities within today’s political environment.


Bridging the Gap: How Insurtech Can Revolutionize Healthcare Access for the Transgender Community. A thought leadership article by Sarah Tian


Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. The views expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of our organization. While we strive for accuracy, we make no representations or warranties regarding the completeness, reliability, or suitability of the content. Readers should exercise their own judgment and verify any information before acting upon it. We disclaim all liability for any errors, omissions, or consequences arising from the use of this article.


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