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Mercer's, Marsh's BRGs hosts inclusive benefits discussion
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Mercer Global Benefits Consultant Dr. Diego Ramirez was the featured speaker at an Out & Equal Chicagoland Citywide Pride event Oct. 16 at Mercer's Chicago offices.

The Pride Business Resource Groups ( BRG ) of both Mercer, a consulting firm, and Marsh, an insurance broking and risk management firm—a sister subsidiary of professional services company Marsh & McLennan—joined forces to host this discussion.

The event was spearheaded by Chicago Mercer Pride BRG Co-Chairs Mallory Gyetvan and Austin Wilson and Chicago Marsh Pride BRG Chair Frank Cella. Gyetvan is also a Mercer health consultant while Wilson is a Mercer life, absence and disability consultant. Cella is a managing director and central zone education practice leader at Marsh.

Cella spoke about Marsh's long history of providing inclusive benefits to its LGBT employees. Gyetvan explained that because Mercer has a background in benefits, they wanted to host this event to provide information on inclusive workplace benefits and solicit feedback and discussion from other companies' employees.

Mercer's Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader Kari Mayfield spoke about the company's approach to diversity ahead of Ramirez's remarks. Mayfield said that Mercer's approach to diversity and inclusion can also apply to how Marsh approaches these subjects.

Ramirez shared pictures of his family and spoke about his journey from Colombia to Mexico to San Francisco ahead of his presentation. He said that there are a wide variety of benefits employees look at when they are seeking out companies to work for. Ramirez explained that these benefits used to be cisgender/heterosexual-focused, but that is changing at a number of companies worldwide.

In terms of company benefits that cover gender-affirmative treatment for transgender employees, Ramirez said the highest can be found in the North America Region ( Canada and the United States ) with 42 percent, while the lowest is in Asia with 13 percent. He explained that in countries like Singapore where there are almost no protections for LGBT people, mortality rates for people with HIV could be 25 percent due to the lack of access for healthcare services, compared to under five percent in many other areas around the world.

As for what is happening in the United States, Ramirez said there are increasing numbers of people identifying as LGBT and that percentage is higher among the younger generations than those who are 40-plus years old. Some 37 percent of LGBT people are raising children and 49 percent of LGBT couples are married, he added, further noting that LGBT people are three times more likely to experience mental health conditions; that higher level of stress they experience is due to outside forces.

Ramirez offered numerous reasons why companies should focus on inclusive benefits. He said a survey found that 70 percent of trans patients and 56 percent of LGB patients have experienced discrimination in healthcare, including being turned away; having providers refusing to touch them or using excessive precautions; receiving verbal or physical abuse from providers; and being blamed for their health status.

Regarding LGBT-inclusive benefits that companies provide, Ramirez said that 360 companies replied to his survey.

According to the survey, 52 percent of the companies in the U.S. provide any kind of transgender-inclusive benefits; and of those companies that provide benefits, 100 percent provide behavioral health, counseling and mental health services, while 86 percent provide surgical affirmation treatment health coverage. Only 12 percent of companies provide compensation for travel and lodging to transgender employees who have to go to other parts of the country to receive medical services at qualified hospitals.

Ramirez also spoke about family planning coverage for LGBT employees including surrogacy, fertility support, adoption assistance and parental leave.

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