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Healthcare

More Employers Expand Mental Health Benefits

American workers are more stressed than ever, and an increasing number of people are also struggling with mental health issues. 

Sadly, the number of people dying from drugs, alcohol and suicide hit record levels in 2019. 

When someone is battling addiction or has mental health issues, it affects all aspects of their life, including work. Stress can have a significant adverse impact on business. It costs employers an average of $300 billion a year in stress-related health care and missed work, according to a Harris Poll conducted for Purchasing Power.

That’s why more employers are stepping up to provide their workers with benefits to support behavioral health and emotional well-being. 

Employee assistance programs

One of the most common ways that businesses have offered support is through employer-paid employee assistance programs (EAPs), which offer a set amount of free mental health services sessions, typically topping out at five to eight per year. But for many people who are experiencing mental health issues, this may not be enough.

Some larger employers have started offering mental health benefits that cover a higher number of therapy sessions and a wider range of treatment options, including therapy and mental health coaching. 

Additionally, studies have found that offering a mix of online services such as digital lessons and in-person or virtual therapy can lead to lower therapy dropout rates, plus higher rates of abstinence for clients with substance abuse issues.

As a result, some employers are offering programs that cover a spectrum of behavioral health care options, such as:

  • Self-care apps for employees experiencing occasional stress
  • In-person therapy sessions
  • Virtual therapy sessions 
  • Prescription medication to treat common, diagnosable conditions such as anxiety or depression. 

Companies usually offer EAPs at no cost to their employees. Most employers operate their EAP through a third party administrator, which can be crucial to the success of your EAP.

Employees have to feel comfortable discussing professional and personal problems with the EAP administrator, and if your business administers your EAP, it could prevent employees from coming forward and asking for the help they require. 

That said, it’s up to you to make sure your staff understands that they can talk about mental health without fear of it affecting their jobs. You should train management and supervisors on the importance of confidentiality and job protection if one of your staff asks for assistance or raises mental health concerns. 

Don’t forget your health insurance

There is an extensive list of mental health services your health plan should provide your staff. These services include outpatient and inpatient treatment, telemedicine, medication and counseling. Each of these attributes can be vital for treating mental illnesses.

Of course, there will likely be some out-of-pocket costs for your employees that use these services under their group health plans. 

One service that is growing and improving success rates is the continuing evolution of telemedicine. According to the benefits news site BenefitsPro, telemedicine can make getting care anonymous and convenient, so patients can receive it where they’re most comfortable. This is especially valuable when dealing with the sensitive matter of mental health.

Other options

American workers are more stressed than ever, and some may not need counseling services from an EAP to reduce their life stress. Besides offering an EAP, there are other benefits that you can extend to your workers that can help them better deal with the ordeals of life and work, including: 

Parental leave — Becoming a new parent is extremely stressful. If you don’t offer parental leave, and instead require parents to take unpaid time off, such as under the Family and Medical Leave Act, this stress is compounded. Paternal leave is paid time off for new parents, either mom or dad, after the birth or adoption of a child. It gives parents the opportunity to take care of their new child without the stress of work getting in the way. 

The benefit to the employer is that when the worker returns from their leave, they are more productive, sooner. Consider offering this to both male and female employees. 

Paid time off — PTO combines sick leave and vacation time. It gives employees a set bank of time off at the beginning of each year. Employees can then choose whenever and however they want to use this time off. 

Flexible work — Flexible work is a great way to help employees with mental health issues. This benefit can include flexible hours (selecting hours they will work), flexible schedule (selecting when they work) and flexible location (like telecommuting).

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Uncategorized

Trends Shaping Health Insurance and Health Care in 2020

As a new decade begins, the health insurance industry is on the cusp of making a leap towards improved, higher-tech management of health plan participants.

A recent paper by Capgemini, an insurance technology and consulting firm, predicts the following trends that will be taking shape in the health insurance industry and how they may affect businesses that are paying for their employees’ coverage.

1. Realigned relationships — Insurers are trying to shift risk between themselves and pharmaceutical companies in an effort to reduce drug outlays. The report says insurers are also working more closely with health care providers for early intervention in medical issues that may be facing participants. Addressing health issues early can reduce long-run treatment costs.

2. Fluid regulations — As we’ve seen, just because the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, the regulations governing health care and health insurance have continued streaming out of Washington. If the last two years are any guide, this will continue to be the case. Also, the constitutionality of the ACA is now being litigated once again after an appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

3. Increasing transparency — More stringent regulations, along with President Trump’s recent executive order to improve price and quality transparency, are forcing the health care industry and insurers to become more transparent in their pricing.

One of the biggest focuses is on the drug industry and the role of pharmacy benefit managers, the largest of which have been criticized for being opaque in their pricing, discounts and how they handle drug company rebates.

Also, insurers are increasingly providing detailed information regarding services covered under their health plans, claims processing and payments. Additionally, some insurers are helping enrollees to make more informed decisions before they use a health care service by providing digital tools to help them reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

4. Predictive analytics — Health insurers are using predictive analytics for risk profiling and early intervention for enrollees with health issues. Predictive analytics provide insurers with insightful assessments of potentially high-risk customers, in order to mitigate losses.

With advancements in technologies such as big data and connected devices, insurers now have access to vast amounts of customer data, which can be used to remind people it’s time for their check-ups, medications and other necessary medical services.

Insurers are using predictive analytics to identify and monitor high-risk individuals to intervene early and prevent further complications. This in turn can help reduce claims.

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Healthcare

Congress Eliminates the ‘Cadillac’ and Other ACA Taxes

Congress before the new year passed legislation repealing the so-called “Cadillac tax” on generous group health plans, as well as two other taxes, finally putting to bed an issue that has plagued the Affordable Care Act since its inception.

Although it had not yet been implemented, employers didn’t like the Cadillac and labor unions came out against it as well. It was so unpopular that Congress voted twice to delay implementation, which was originally set to start in 2018. The latest start date had been pushed until 2022.

The Cadillac tax, an enacted but not yet implemented part of the ACA, is a 40% levy on the most generous employer-provided health insurance plans — those that cost more than $11,200 per year for an individual policy or $30,150 for family coverage. It was designed to only tax the portion of the premium that was above the threshold.

Effect of repeal on group plans

The tax would have been levied on health plans, which are legal entities through which employers and unions provide benefits to employees. It would have been paid by employers, but its impact on employees would be indirect and would have depended on how firms and health plan managers responded to the tax in offering and designing benefits.

None of these issues now need to concern employers offering group plans.

The tax was eliminated as part of a $1.4 trillion year-end budget bill that President Trump signed in order to keep the government open. Here are all the ACA-related taxes that the legislation eliminated:

  • The Cadillac tax, which had been expected to raise $197 billion over 10 years.
  • Starting in 2021, the health insurance tax, which had been projected to raise $150 billion over the next decade, and
  • The 2.3% excise on the sale of medical devices, which had been expected to generate $25.5 billion in the next 10 years.
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