Mental Health Employee Benefits
Options in Mental Health Care for Plan Members
It is estimated that nearly one in five American adults has suffered from some type of mental illness in their lifetime, which accounts for some 4.2 percent of all working adults in the USA. (Source: NIH) The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) advises that “Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.” Further, “Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.”
How Behavioral Health Benefits Support Wellness
Maintaining good mental health requires access to mental health services and support. However, a vast number of health care plans do not provide benefits that cover the specific needs of behavioral health patients, nor the medications and therapies they need to have normal lives. This results in limited resources for employees who may be dealing with stressful personal and professional situations, depression, emotional issues, and interpersonal dysfunctions.
Not having access to mental health benefits can cause sufferers to turn to unhealthy ways of dealing with things, such as masking symptoms and acting out in unacceptable ways in the form of substance abuse and addictions. Over long periods, lack of mental health leads to poor productivity, low employee morale, and legal risks to the company when an employee finally comes to the end of their coping skills.
Designing Mental Health Benefits That Work
Fortunately, there are behavioral health plans that help address this very real problem across many workplaces. This often involves the use of a multi-integrated approach. The components of a well-designed behavioral health plan include:
- On-Demand Access to a Live Person: When a person is in the middle of a perceived crisis, whether it be something personal or professional, having a knowledgeable and caring person to talk to makes all the difference. A number of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) provide direct access to telephone counselors, nurses, and other health providers who can direct an affected employee to the behavioral health services he or she may need. Additionally, emergency room nurses and doctors should be ready to provide prompt and respectful care to adults suffering from mental illness symptoms.
- Immediate Approvals for Services: Along with fast access to a live person to help someone cope with what they are experiencing, being able to get admitted to inpatient care to treat an immediate threat to an employee's or their dependent’s safety is a must. Behavioral health plans offer a faster pre-certification process and claims handling than standard healthcare insurance.
- Data and Service Integration: An important factor for any behavioral health insurance program is that it can seamlessly and confidentially manage the healthcare data of each member in a secure environment. In the past, it was harder to control and get members into the right programs due to privacy issues with paper records management methods. With HIPAA guidelines in place, a mental health system can allow group insurance plan members privacy when they need to access mental health services.
- Prescription Assistance: When someone needs medication to treat an underlying mental or behavioral health issue, a possible barrier is having access to approved prescriptions. Behavioral health programs offer greater success with obtaining medications to treat a large number of problems, from depression to substance abuse. Additionally, this must be an ongoing level of support as mental health patients often decide to go off their medications when they start to feel better. Physicians and pharmacists need a way to communicate the importance of regular drug therapy.
Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness is decreasing, and patients are able to get the care they need using their mental health plan benefits. In addition to regular psychological care, medication, and talk therapies, the outlook for those dealing with mental health issues is getting more positive.