Nearly all (99%) purchasers/employers agree that the mental health of their employees is directly linked to the overall performance of the organization. This is among the findings of a survey on mental health attitudes and strategies of employers across the country conducted by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.
“While almost universally employers understand the importance of mental health in their workplace, they vary widely in their behavioral health strategies,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance President & CEO. “We’ve learned a lot from leading companies in how to best address emotional health and are encouraged to see that purchasers have this issue on their radar – but there’s still much work to be done. In addition, employers have underestimated the degree of the problem related to network access to high quality care and need to demand more from their vendors.”
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Additional survey findings include:
- Only one in eight respondents have data that directly connects mental health with overall health and performance, but employers generally acknowledge that the emotional wellbeing of employees impacts absenteeism (63%), work performance (73%) and conflicts at work (42%)
- Most employers evaluate the cost of mental illness based on the direct medical care costs for treating mental illness (less than 20% of related economic costs) even though the biggest costs associated with mental illness are non-medical costs such as lost productivity and expenses associated with co-morbid conditions
- When asked about network access standards for behavioral health compared to medical, 64% of employers responded that health plans administer the same standards for behavioral health but less than half (43%) believe that out-of-network usage for behavioral health is comparable to that for medical/surgical conditions; only about a quarter of employers are aware of health plan strategies to address barriers to network access
- About one-third of employers (32%) replied that an independent assessment has been conducted of mental health parity and only 13% of employers believe they are indemnified for the risks associated with mental health parity non-compliance
- For tele-health behavioral benefits, 39% of employers have implemented with an additional 23% considering doing so in the next 12-24 months
- When asked about medications to serve diverse population needs, 80% of employers believe that they offer comprehensive coverage, while only 16% measure first medication failure rates
- Almost all (97%) of respondents offered an employee assistance program with 72% considering those programs valuable or highly valuable; 44% of employers have designated an individual responsibility for “whole person wellbeing;” and 41% of organizations have training for HR and/or supervisors on how to recognize behavioral health concerns in employees
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“We’ve been working with coalition members and their employers/purchasers to improve their mental health strategies for the last few years,” said Margaret Rehayem, National Alliance Director of Initiatives & Programs. “As serious deficiencies in access are revealed, we encourage coalitions and purchasers to partner with their health plans and pharmacy benefit managers so that adequate coverage and engagement of the workforce moves in the right direction to change the behavioral health debate from a focus on cost to the broader value discussion.”
The online survey was conducted earlier this year with 113 employers responding, 90% of which have over 1,000 covered lives. This study is an extension of the National Alliance Mental Health Initiative and was informed by the Achieving Value in Mental Health Report released in fall of 2018.
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