You Shouldn’t Have to Ask: Open and Inclusive Insurance

I was listening to NPR on the way in to the office this week when Melissa Block started talking about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition. Her story got me thinking about an exchange I had with on Twitter a few weeks ago. It started when Leigh Honeywell tweeted about the kind of culture she looks for – specifically, that she wants to know if a company’s health insurance is transgender-inclusive, even though it’s not an issue that affects her directly.

This started me to thinking. But what prodded me to action was when Trynity Mirell posted that she was looking for a new job.  She said she could only consider roles with trans-inclusive health insurance.

It seems obvious in retrospect, but I’d never thought of it before this conversation started: for some people, the fine print in the insurance coverage is the difference between being able to take a job or not.

I had no idea if our insurance was inclusive. It had never occurred to me to check. But it didn’t take much imagination to realize the predicament of someone searching for a job, knowing that the details of the health insurance offered could spell bankruptcy for them. What’s worse, there’s no way to find out the answers short of asking directly – an uncomfortable conversation for some people that could expose the job-seeker to questions and illegal discrimination.

What’s more, it’s not just transgender men and women who face this challenge. If you’re facing chronic illness, bariatric surgery, or mental health issues, you need to know if your job will cover your needs. The fine print on a health insurance plan could turn your dream job into a financial catastrophe. In some parts of the country, even benefits we here in Seattle take for granted (like the coverage of contraception) are at the whims of the plan or employer.

It’s not fair to force candidates to disclose these deeply personal matters in the course of a job interview. I sat down with our head of business operations to try and find a way to fix this. We wound up doing two things that we think are extremely important, and we urge other companies to do the same.

First, we’re posting the full insurance summaries of our current insurance plans. Candidates can look at these documents even before applying to understand what coverage we offer and know if it will work for them.

Second, we’re publishing important details that are not covered in the summaries. We asked our health plan representatives about the major issues that we’ve heard are important and are not addressed in the insurance summary, but are only buried in the fine print of the actual plan documents: fertility, bariatric surgery, and gender reassignment. Here’s what we learned about the insurance we offer at Glowforge, beyond the broad strokes of the plans (attached below):

  • Fertility treatments are covered when they treat an underlying condition, but not otherwise. IVF is not covered.
  • Bariatric surgery is covered if it is medically necessary.
  • Gender reassignment surgery and other transgender-related care is covered if medically necessary.

I wish these answers were even more inclusive, because otherwise, we’re pretty proud of our insurance at Glowforge. As a small startup, our options are limited: we can’t demand additions to the big insurance companies’ standard coverage list, so we can’t get them to cover all three of these conditions under all circumstances. When we get bigger, we intend to do that. For now, we’re doing what we can: we chose the plan that we could find with the most coverage for our employees, present and future.

Beyond that, though, it’s coverage we’re excited to offer to our team. We offer high quality medical, dental, vision, life, short term & long term disability insurance.  Glowforge covers 100% of the premiums for the employee, plus 50% of the cost for dependents.  This includes Domestic Partners too!

You can look at the documents linked below for more details. If you have any other questions or if there are any major omissions, you can email them to us at [email protected].  Feel free to use an anonymous ‘throwaway’ email account, for example using  Also, feedback is very welcome. There are a lot of thoughtful people who’ve thought about these issues more than us, and we’d welcome opinions on how we could improve.

One important caveat: this post was correct as of the time of publishing, 1/30/2017. Insurance changes at least on a yearly basis, and sometimes more often. We’ll do our best to update this when it changes, but if you’re considering a job with us, and this question is an important one for you, email us (anonymously or not) to be sure you’ve got the latest information.

Glowforge 2019 Benefit Summary