Mental Health and the Well-being of an Organization’s Workforce

July 12th, 2016

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most individual and small group health insurance plans to cover mental health and substance abuse disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy.

Additionally, health plans must comply with the requirements set forth in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), meaning coverage for mental health and substance abuse services generally cannot be more restrictive than coverage for medical and surgical services.

The need for mental health programs has increased, says Pari Luna, Director of Health Strategies at Hays Companies, with some 3.7 million Americans with significant mental illnesses accessing care through the insurance exchanges and extended Medicaid coverage as of January 2016.

“There is more to the wellbeing of an organization’s workforce than just physical health,” she adds. “Mental health is a highly prevalent condition in most organizations and serves as a barrier to managing other aspects of one’s health. When companies take a holistic approach to the health of their population and appropriately accommodate for those benefits, we see much greater impact on both individual and organizational health goals.”

  • Trends in Mental Health Services Cases of employee depression increased by 58 percent between 2012 and 2014 and anxiety cases increased by 74 percent, along with cases of employee stress growing by 28 percent, according to a Workplace Options study.
  • Surveyed employers saw a 3.4 percent increase in mental health and substance abuse claims.
  • The total number of out-of-network claims for mental health services has grown, perhaps due to adult dependents in college who do not have access to in-network care.[1] Luna adds that this trend is also due to the shortage of providers, resulting in people choosing not to join networks because they don’t necessarily have to.

The Effect of Mental Health Coverage on Employers

  • Each year, 18 percent of the U.S. population experiences some type of mental illness, according to data released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Mental illness also causes individuals to miss more workdays than any other chronic condition, resulting in an estimated $100 billion per year in indirect costs to U.S. employers.

Research shows that a mentally healthy workforce is linked to lower medical costs, as well as less absenteeism, notes Luna. Therefore, employers should ensure that they have the resources to support their employees to become as mentally healthy and productive as possible.

Creating a Stigma-Free Workforce and Evaluating Current Mental Health Benefits

In order to encourage a mentally healthy workforce, employers should build a culture that is as stigma-free as possible, encouraging people to seek help rather than hiding their stress and pain. Some efforts could include educating employees about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders and regularly hosting seminars about stress, workload, and work-life balance, and other issues.

Employers should also evaluate their current mental health benefits to ensure they are sufficient for employee care by asking insurers these questions:

  • Do they offer readily accessible mental health information through employee educational programs, their website or self-screening tools?
  • Do they have a toll-free number for your employees to call for help with personal, family or work issues?
  • Are there available, in-network providers who are trained in screening for and treating depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders?
  • Can they integrate their services with your EAP, disease management and disability benefits? Integration results in better coordination of care for employees and can save employers time, effort and money.
  • Are pharmaceutical benefits sufficient enough for employees to be able to afford needed medication?

“Although the ACA has made an impact on mental health care, further implementation and education regarding appropriate coverage is still needed to realize the full impact,” Luna concludes.

For more information on mental health benefits, contact Pari Luna, the Director of Health Strategies at Hays Companies, at pluna@hayscompanies.com

 

[1] Mercer & McLennan Companies