Actions and Language Support Safe, Inclusive Care
This article is sponsored by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
As both a local employer and a healthcare company, we at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of
Rhode Island (BCBSRI) recognize our role in cultivating an inclusive and safe environment
and how our actions — both big and small — can affect Rhode Islanders who have
historically struggled in healthcare interactions.
Healthcare is stressful and confusing for many people. If you are feeling alienated or
misunderstood as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it can add even more frustration
In an effort to help, we developed the BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zone program, which certifies
providers who offer safe, affirming and inclusive care to the LGBTQIA+ community. A major
goal of the program is to direct members toward safe spaces committed to inclusive and
affirming treatment. Over the years, this program has expanded to include dental and
mental health practices, substance abuse and sexual trauma centers, and assisted living
facilities for older adults.
Adding gender-affirming care and coverage to our policies for those transitioning is
another priority for our organization. For instance, we are incorporating non-binary
gender choices into our membership system. While this may seem like a small
administrative task, it is incredibly valuable in creating an inclusive experience for all
members. We also have seen tremendous progress in updating our policies for gender-
affirming care. In partnering with the provider community and following guidelines from
the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, we hope to continue our
progress in providing better access to safe and affirming care for our LGBTQIA+ members.
We also recognize the importance of how we speak to one another, so members can now
update their profiles to include gender pronouns. We have embraced the power of
pronouns for our employees as well, adding pronouns to email signatures and offering
trainings about why pronouns matter and the impact they have on creating an inclusive
and supportive environment.
As one of the largest employers in Rhode Island, we hope to be out in front with other
employers advancing inclusive workplaces. BCBSRI is considered a Best Place to Work for
LGBTQ Equality after scoring top marks of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign
Corporate Equality Index for the past eight years in a row. We are proud to be the only
Rhode Island company to have done so. And last year we joined The Business Coalition for
the Equality Act, a group of leading U.S. employers supporting federal legislation that
would provide the same basic protections to LGBTQ people as are provided to other
protected groups under federal law.
Our actions — both large and small — have the potential to further advance equality for
the LGBTQIA+ population. Whether it’s improving access to safe, affirming care via the
LGBTQ Safe Zone Program, instituting broad-based policy changes, or communicating and
referring to one another in the appropriate way, all efforts are valuable and allow us to
make progress that matters. To learn more about BCBSRI’s efforts to advance diversity,
equity and inclusion, please visit our website.
Jason Furlan, Director of Medicare Concierge and former chair of Blue pRIde Employee
Business Resource Group, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island