University health system consulted trans activists to get perfect score on ‘equality’ index

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – University of Iowa Health Care officials consulted with an LGBTQ human rights group to try to improve their equality score after being docked over their…

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – University of Iowa Health Care officials consulted with an LGBTQ human rights group to try to improve their equality score after being docked over their transgender insurance policy, according to emails obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The center scored 95 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) “Healthcare Equality Index” report in 2022, with high marks in all categories including non-discrimination training, LGBTQ staff training and patient services, but received a zero for “Transgender Inclusive Health Insurance.” As a result, Janet Niebuhr, project manager for University of Iowa Health Care, reached out to HRC on Sept. 7, 2023, asking for help to fix their transgender policies to achieve a perfect score, according to emails obtained through a public records request. 

“There are now three different documents that are required to be submitted and those are outlined below,” Tari Hanneman, director of HRC’s Health and Aging Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the manager of the Healthcare Equality Index, told Niebuhr, saying the medical center needed to be more transparent about the types of transgender medical procedures it offered under its employee insurance. “Based on my quick review of just the SPD that you submitted, your plan does not clearly indicate the full range of treatments that are covered as it only mentions surgery. If the other documents provide more transparency of the full range of coverage you may still be able to receive credit.”

HRC is the largest LGBTQ political lobbying group in the U.S. and has pushed for children to receive transgender medical procedures. The organization has published its Healthcare Equality Index for 15 years and reviews over 2,200 health care facilities nationwide to determine if they uphold “policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees.”

In 2022, 496 health care centers received perfect scores and an additional 251 scoring at least 80 to 95 points, according to HRC’s website.

Hanneman listed three documents the center needed to update its score, with the first being a Summary Plan Documentation that gives a general idea of what the insurance covers, according to the emails.  The second Hanneman called a “Clinical Plan Bulletin,” which provides a more detailed list of specific transgender medical procedures an employee to have covered under their specific insurance plan.

Finally, Hanneman wrote that they also needed ” a sample of your employee benefits materials that clearly describes what is covered,” which could be “slides from a benefits presentation, an LGBTQ+ benefits guide, or other materials given to the employee that explicitly state the availability of these benefits,” according to the emails.

“We have strengthened the criteria this year with more of a clear focus on transparency and communication to employees about the benefits that are covered,” Hanneman wrote.

Several days later on Sept. 15, Dr. Katie Imborek, co-director of the UI Health Care LGBTQ Clinic and interim associate vice president for Health Parity, emailed Rebecca Olsen, senior director of University Benefits at UI, asking if they should work with HRC again to go over “requests” for health care coverage for “gender-affirming surgeries.”

“I know that in years past we have been able to communicate directly with the Human Rights Campaign regarding employee health plan coverage for gender-affirming surgeries,” Imborek wrote. “I am wondering if we need to do that again. Would you kindly work with Janet to find a time for the three of us to meet 9/13 or 9/14 to review the requests?”

UI, Niebuhr and the HRC did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.