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Equity in Action: Healthcare

Hi friends!

Are you overwhelmed, and unsure of how to put equity and inclusion into action on a daily basis? Do you question what it means to live inclusivity as a principle that governs the decisions your organization makes to ensure it’s more equitable for all? To me, one answer to these questions is money.

Money and time are the two easiest currencies to spend when trying to redistribute power. As the Managing Director of the company, financial stewardship is one of the most important components of my role within the organization. I take it very seriously, and I know when to pinch a penny.

In 2022, like many organizations, Firefly Partners was emerging from the pandemic with caution. Benefits renewals weighed heavily on our total budget for the year, as healthcare costs went through the roof due to COVID, and other factors like several new Alzheimer’s medications that were joining the market. Due to the rising costs, the same great benefits we had been offering in the past were going to be even more difficult to continue to cover each year.

Firefly Partners is an Employee-first Organization

For context, Firefly Partners is an employee-first organization. We take pride in providing extremely robust and holistic benefits for our employees, even as a small company. However, our organization also knows the value of our employees. These difficult times have made it even more clear that healthcare coverage should be a universal right. Weighing the financial costs of benefits against the human costs of poorly selected benefits is something I understand personally… About 15 years ago, I organized my first informal protest of unfair employee treatment.

At the time, the industry I was previously in did not provide healthcare or any benefits options to hourly employees; regardless of the full time hours worked by the employees, or the years of dedication, hourly employees were denied any PTO, sick time, or healthcare benefits access. At that point, I saw my fellow peer group of young professionals age out of their parents’ benefits coverage and were forced to make tough decisions between personal coverage options, or paying rent. It was hard to witness.

One day while working, I became violently ill. When the symptoms came on, I refused to leave my desk because I knew the remaining hours would be unpaid leave. This intolerable circumstance mobilized me to create a discussion with the leaders within that organization. Knowing that I would be met with derision, I appealed with passion but came away empty handed. While I left with nothing, I walked away with a renewed understanding of my desire to fight for justice.

This memory came back to me during the renewals process this year… There were several options we were investigating. Some packages were going to be much more economical for group coverage. So I made a commitment to ask the hard questions, and to look for the right answers. I would often ponder:

  • How often is healthcare prohibitive not only in cost, but the coverage allowed per individual?
  • How has body-shame, racism, misogyny or elitism prevented folks from completing their health goals?
  • What about bodies that yearn to be affirmed to what their hearts and brains feel?

It was these and questions that brought up all the feelings and desires for justice that reemerged from that conversation 15 years ago. This time, I could make a difference. I could put our money towards advancing inclusion.

Ensuring Trans Staff and Allies Are Seen and Heard

To our past, present, and future trans staff and allies, I wanted to ensure your needs were seen and heard. With much assistance from my personal pharmacist friend, and our wonderful PEO (G&A Partners), we studied formularies and compiled the top medications most commonly used by transitioning folks. One by one we checked the coverage and pricing of these medications to ensure our comparison was thorough.

Ultimately, Firefly Partners made the financially difficult, but directly impactful decision to select the most expensive, but most comprehensive package offered. This plan provides the most robust coverage of trans healthcare as well as affordable prescription drug pricing tiers. After investigations into the formularies from the other quotes, we could not overcome the knowledge that some fundamental medications and gender affirming procedures would not be covered, or be covered at a subpar level.

It’s time for us to put our money and time where it makes the most difference. Our commitment at Firefly is to create a more inclusive and accessible future for all, and may this be one of many steps we take on that journey together.

Keep fighting the good fight,

~Ming

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