By Bonnie Hauck Evelyn, CBIZ Benefits & Insurance
A wellness program is well only if it addresses the physical and psychological needs of employees. According to a study by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 percent of Americans age 18 and older struggled with some form of a mental illness in 2010. That’s about 45.9 million adults.
Employers should be sensitive to the impact that stress, in particular, has on employees and their families, as it can raise the need for mental health assistance. While the Mental Health Parity Act made strides in ensuring that employees have access to mental health treatment, employers should look at their benefits package and consider the impact of cost-shifting through high-deductible health plans. An employee who is struggling financially might decide not to seek mental health care because of the out-of-pocket cost.
In addition, employers should consider coordinating employee assistance program (EAP) counseling with health coverage and wellness initiatives and combining an EAP with workers' compensation—for instance, by enrolling employees automatically into counseling provided through the EAP as part of the workers' compensation process. In many cases, the employee will benefit from immediate interaction in dealing with issues of depression or accident recovery and pain medication issues.
This approach can help employees return to work more quickly. Moreover, a coordinated mental health risk management strategy implemented across the boundaries of workers' compensation, health coverage and wellness promotion can break down the silos in design and implementation among these programs that produce unnecessary costs.
Bonnie Hauck Evelyn is the national practice leader at CBIZ Benefits & Insurance, located in Boca Raton, Fla., and previously held a post at Aetna for more than a decade, providing employee benefits and client services.
To Promote Wellness, Help Employees Reduce Workplace Stress, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, December 2011
High-Stress Jobs Linked to Higher Health Costs, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, September 2011
Poor Emotional Well-Being Is Obstacle to Wellness Efforts, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, August 2011
Using Behavioral-Based Design to Encourage Healthy Behavior, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, August 2011
Uncommon Knowledge: Using Health Assessment Data, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, July 2011
Why Employee Well-Being Matters to Your Bottom Line, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, November 2009
SHRM Online Benefits Discipline
SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page