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Actions and Language Support Safe, Inclusive Care

Image via Unsplash

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

and fear.

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

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

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


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