- The U.S. Department of Labor updated a tool that can help check health plans for compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and related requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), it announced Oct. 23.
- The update includes best practices, revised examples of compliance and warning signs of non-compliance, among other things, the agency said.
- Among other things, the MHPAEA requires that a group health plan or health insurance issuer that imposes financial requirements and treatment limitations on mental health and substance use disorder benefits must make sure those limitations are comparable to the limitations applied to medical and surgical benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on employee stress, including adjustments to remote work for the first time for many workers, job loss, online learning for those with children and social distancing mandates. The average employee's capacity to absorb change without becoming fatigued "has been cut in half" this year compared to last year, researchers at advisory firm Gartner said in an Oct. 14 statement.
Employers responded with increased access to mental health benefits, employee assistance programs and flexible scheduling, according to speakers at a virtual conference in August. Large employers were quick to embrace virtual healthcare delivery especially in the context of mental health treatment. Eighty-eight percent of employers in a recent Business Group on Health survey said they had virtual service offerings in place for mental health this year and an additional 8% were either adding such services in 2021 or considering them for 2022 or 2023.
Management style can also play a role. Leaders who are attentive to employees' emotional needs and unite them around a common purpose can help to reduce COVID-19-induced stress in the workplace, according to the results of a series of studies in China and the U.S. published in the Journal of Applied Psychology Oct. 8. These managers are often called "servant leaders." Study participants whose supervisors rated higher on "servant leadership" showed less anxiety and more engagement than other employees.
Even before the pandemic, however, an increased focused on mental health required employers' attention. Notably, mental health parity litigation had "exploded," attorneys for law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP wrote for the firm in late 2019. Most lawsuits were filed under ERISA and concerned coverage for residential and other treatment facilities. Others addressed medical necessity criteria and payment rates to providers, they said.