- Employer-sponsored health plans do not offer coverage for mental health and addiction treatment that's comparable to their physical health offerings — and that gap is growing, according to research from Milliman, Inc. The findings are "profoundly worrisome" in light of the decreased life expectancy in the U.S. due to so-called "deaths of despair," said Tom Insel, special advisor for behavioral health to California Governor Gavin Newsom and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
- The report examined coverage for 37 million employees and dependents and concluded that in-network access to behavioral providers, along with provider reimbursement rates, worsened in 2016 and 2017 compared to earlier years. In-patient out-of-network use for substance use treatment was more than 10 times more likely than for medical/surgical care in 2017, as compared to 4.7 times in 2013. Additionally, a child's out-of-network office visit for behavioral health was 10.1 times more likely than an out-of-network primary care office visit; this was more than twice the disparity reported for adults.
- A coalition of behavioral health organizations announcing the study results urged five immediate action steps to help reduce the growing incidence of serious behavioral health problems, including suicide and opioid abuse: improve network access for behavioral health specialists, integrate behavioral health into primary care, implement measurement-based case to improve quality and outcomes, expand telebehavioral health options, and ensure mental health parity compliance.
Mental health issues can seriously affect employee well-being, both inside and outside the workplace. Access to care for both mental and physical well-being is important, as is a culture that nurtures and fosters overall employee wellness.
Experts who have previously spoken to HR Dive suggest implementing "soft contracts" that let employees talk to higher-ups if they are feeling overwhelmed, without fear of repercussions. Managers can also be trained to step in if any of their reports start exhibiting warning signs of mental health problems.
In May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed workplace burnout an "occupational phenomenon" and called it "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." This definition comes as no surprise to many U.S. employees and employers, but the WHO's highlighting of the issue as a public health concern brought a new focus to it.
The U.S. Department of Labor offers a mental health toolkit for employers that includes resources for employers looking to provide and promote a mentally healthy workplace. The toolkit states that the "4 As" of a mental health-friendly workplace are awareness, accommodations, assistance and access.
Companies also can ensure that both HR and managers are trained on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to mental conditions and accurately document all conversations and accommodations.