Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the United States and one of the country's largest employers, confirmed with The Advocate Wednesday that it will be providing full health benefits to transgender employees, including coverage of gender-affirming surgeries.
According to Kroger spokeswoman Patty Leesemann, the new health plan will be available January 2016 to non-union employees. She could not give an estimate as to what percentage of Kroger's more than 400,000 employees that included.
News of changes to Kroger's health coverage was first announced by the Cincinnati Enquirer after transgender long-term company employee Britney McGannon reportedly posted the text of a memo on her Facebook page.
McGannon, who is based in Cincinnati, posted a direct quotation from the announcement delivered to the Alliance of Kroger, a group of LGBT employees, which read: "Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, medical procedures including surgery and drug therapy for gender reassignment will be covered up to a $100,000 lifetime maximum for eligible associates and their dependents."
In an interview with the Enquirer, McGannon said she is not yet eligible for the coverage, but expects to move in January into a position that would allow her to be covered.
McGannon told the paper she spoke at a company brown-bag session one year ago about her life and about working for Kroger. She told the paper that her openness, along with that of other employees who are transgender or have transgender dependents, may have persuaded Kroger to offer new coverage through its Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.
"I am pretty excited. I never thought when I came out three years ago that with a little bit of work, I could help make a big change and help so many other people," McGannon told the Enquirer. "I never thought that would happen."
Kroger already received high ratings on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, which rated the employer at 85 out of 100, but the ranking noted the Cincinnati-based grocery company did not cover transgender health care.
The new coverage places the employer's HRC rating above the country's largest companies, including Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and Yum! Brands -- parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, which together employ millions of workers and do not provide transgender health coverage, according to the HRC Equality Index.
Kroger operates 2,623 grocery retail stores in 34 states under nearly two dozen banners, including Ralphs, Dillons, Smith's, King Soopers, Fry's, QFC, City Market, Owen's, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker's, Gerbes, Scott's Food & Pharmacy and Harris Teeter.