Employers may soon get new tools for assessing mental health services
- The nonprofit Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR) is releasing new tools to help employers, as healthcare buyers, understand and evaluate mental health services. CPR says the U.S. spends about $201 billion annually on anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders, which makes behavioral health the costliest of all healthcare categories. The organization developed criteria to help buyers evaluate health plans, telehealth providers, navigation services, employee assistance providers (EAPs) and digital solutions.
- CPR's executive director Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, said that mental health underlies many broader health issues, but that despite common disorders like depression and anxiety, the healthcare system "is not set up effectively to treat and manage these conditions." CPR developed standards for buyers as a signal to the healthcare industry and incentive to mental healthcare providers and vendors to invest in closing gaps in the system.
- Working with a group of high-profile employers and healthcare buyers, including SEIU 775 Benefits Group, AT&T and the state of Minnesota, CPR found that the greatest barriers to delivering top-quality mental healthcare were measuring and improving quality; adequate access to care; and integrating mental healthcare with medical care.
Employers are recognizing the need to address behavior health in employees' overall wellbeing. Many workplaces include mental health services among their benefit plans or as a component of their health and wellness programs. Anxiety, depression and the effects of stress are major concerns that employers must address for a healthy, productive workforce; their comorbidity with other health issues, however, can make behavioral health difficult to assess and treat.
That challenge has created uncertainty for healthcare buyers, providers and vendors. And although providers understand the interconnection between behavioral and physical health, mental disorders aren't always easily visible to others or understood well outside the expert community. This challenge makes it necessary for employers to get help from organizations that understand the nuance required for informed decisions about mental health services.
For this reason, many employers have leaned on their EAPs, though some EAPs still hold stigma that they are explicitly for drug addiction. A solid benefits education program can alleviate that. Concierge services and onsite clinics have also made inroads in workplaces, serving as simple ways for employees to get the help they need.