Employee Mental Healthcare and Insurance Coverage- What Employers Should Know

An alarming 52.9 million adults lived with mental illness in 2020 according to the National Institute of Mental Health. These illnesses vary in severity and can go unnoticed in many. Of the 52.9 million adults, only 24.3 million (46.2%) received mental health treatment.

For employers, the growing concern and information around mental health is an opportunity to check on employees’ wellbeing and support them through adequate medical insurance coverage. MyHST helps you find mental healthcare solutions for your employees.

What Employers Should Know About Mental Health Insurance

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to mental healthcare for illnesses and drug abuse for individuals. Thanks to both regulations, more insurance providers are selling plans with coverage for mental healthcare. Behavioral health treatment has expanded beyond an estimated 62.5 million individuals and increased private insurance coverage for mental illnesses.

The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the need for mental health coverage. Many people experienced mental health deterioration due to economic hardship, insolation, and sudden changes in daily living experiences. During the pandemic, 4 of 10 adults in the U.S. reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and substance abuse disorders, which was up from 1 in 10 adults in 2019.

According to the KFF Health Tracking Poll in 2020, many adults also experienced adverse effects of deteriorating mental health such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping (36%)
  • Difficulty eating (32%)
  • Increased drug abuse (12%)
  • Worsened chronic conditions (12%)

Furthermore, according to the CDC 11% of U.S. adults also seriously considered suicide during the pandemic.

The Effects of Poor Employee Mental Health

Employees at work cite that work stress interferes with their workplace performance (56%), relationships with coworkers and peers (51%), quality of work (50%), and relationship with superiors (43%).

Furthermore, more than three-quarters of employees experience work stress that carries over into their personal lives. 7 of 10 adults with workplace stress say that it affects their relationship with their spouse.

Unfortunately, while employees experience unhealthy stress, fewer than 40% have opened up their concerns with employers. 34% fear that their bosses would interpret it as unwillingness or lack of interest in work, 31% fear that their employers would label them weak, 22% are afraid it would go into their files, while 20% are afraid of getting laughed at and being ignored.

Yet according to an article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 86% of employees reported performing better at work and having lower rates of absenteeism after receiving professional treatment for depression. For employers, healthier employees translate into high productivity and retention rates.

Furthermore, managing work stress and helping employees manage mental illnesses can help them manage diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, which arise from stress, and coping mechanisms such as smoking, overeating, and drug and substance abuse. Supporting employee mental wellbeing is therefore crucial for the future of employment and business.

What Changes Have Employers Made to Meet Employee Mental Health Needs?

While many companies offered mental health programs thanks to the MHPAEA and ACA regulations, many were underprepared for the surge in mental health concerns during the pandemic. According to the KFF report, approximately a third of companies with more than 50 employees increased their employees’ access to mental health services. Due to the pandemic, the coverage included telehealth services- the use of digital technologies such as computers and smartphones to receive healthcare services remotely.

However, only 4% of the surveyed companies waived costs or offered cost-sharing programs for their employees. Moreover, only 3% of companies increased coverage for out-of-network providers (physicians without a contract with the health insurance plan provider).

However, 6% of surveyed employers expanded the number of mental health and substance abuse providers in their plan’s network, 16% developed employee assistance programs, and 31% increased access to mental health services such as telehealth.

Notably, increasing provider networks and increasing out-of-network coverage is crucial for improving employee access to mental health support. Furthermore, increasing cost coverage employees to seek mental health services.

More employers are now offering mental wellbeing benefits such as apps to monitor stress levels and support sleep and relaxation, hosting workshops to teach employees about mental wellness, and holding office yoga and meditation sessions.

Furthermore, more employers are now offering comprehensive Emotional Assistance Programs (EAPs) to resolve personal and work-related problems that affect job performance. EAPs are crucial because they address mental health issues and open up communication about mental health at the workplace. Today it’s likely that employees can access up to 10 counseling sessions, up from three of four. Support also included work/life support such as relocating workers and connecting them to emergency shelters if needed.

These adjustments will support a shift in cultural attitudes around mental wellness and stress at work.

Mental Health Insurance and Mental Wellbeing Support

The Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage Parity laws and the Affordable Care Act require employers to provide insurance plans to cover mental health benefits at the same level as they do in other health plans.

As of 2014, most individual and health group plans offer mental health benefits. In addition, Medicaid Alternative Benefit Plans cover mental health and substance use disorder services. The covers also offer rehabilitative and habilitative services. Some of the services under the cover include therapy, counseling, medication, social work services, peer support groups, and substance use disorder treatments.

Under Medicare, employees may access services such as

  • Medicare Part A: This is hospital insurance that covers rooms, meals, nursing care, and related supplies.
  • Medicare Part B: This is medical insurance that covers services outside the hospital such as visiting a psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, and lab tests ordered by a doctor.
  • Medicare Part D: This is prescription drug insurance that pays for covered drugs.

Furthermore, employers should develop workplace mental health policies. A study by Deloitte found that 72% of workplaces do not have mental health policies. In addition, some mental health policies are often created out of haste action to negative experiences within the organization.

A properly crafted policy should serve as a proactive measure. To dispel the shame around mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress, organizations should make mental illnesses a shared concern and also share resources and policies as preventative measures.

Without a proper policy in place, organizations may fail to see mental health as a priority. As such, they may ignore any signs of mental illness. When creating a sound mental health policy, employers should create rules that address the following top risks of mental health:

  • Inadequate mental health policies
  • Poor communication and management habits in the organization
  • Low control and decision-making over one’s work area
  • Low flexibility for work hours
  • Poor financial and emotional support for employees
  • Vague organizational and task objectives

Mental Health Benefits for Talent Attraction and Employee Retention

A study in the UK found that only 3 in 10 (29%) of workers would stay in their current jobs when a competitor offers the same role but with additional comprehensive mental health support and training. Furthermore, a survey of 1,000 employees with at least 5 years experience and 1,009 students found that 69% of workers would be more attracted to working for organizations where the senior executives openly address mental health issues.

In addition, more than half of workers (53%) would be more willing to apply for jobs in organizations with mental wellbeing policies. This factor is particularly more important for younger employees (73%) between 25 and 34 years who say they would consider an organization’s mental health strategy before handing in application compared to 46% of workers between 55 and 64 years.

Furthermore, 89% of employees between 25 and 34 and 75% of those between 35 and 44 years would be more attracted to businesses where senior executives freely discuss mental health. The same research also found that a majority of line managers (73%) believe in having an organizational mental health policy helps attract top talent and retain the best employees.

Despite these findings and the growing encouragement to prioritize mental wellbeing worldwide, 59% of workers still believe that disclosing mental health challenges to an employer would negatively impact their careers, proving that there’s still a long way to go.

Finding Adequate Mental Health Insurance for Employees

Employers should find suitable insurance plans for employees’ mental health wellness. Comprehensive plans include mental and behavioral health coverage, which includes Employee Assistance Programs and telehealth appointments. Online services are particularly crucial for easy access to services ad 24/7 support, especially for emergencies.

It’s equally important to subscribe to plans with broad coverage for a variety of mental health conditions including addictions to gambling and compulsive spending. Some covers also come with access to apps that help employees track their moods, connect with their peers, and track their progress through daily and weekly check-ins.

The Healthcare Solutions Team Difference

At MyHST, our expert agents help employers find the best mental health insurance covers to provide employees with better access to mental health treatments and support. In addition, our extensive networks help you and your team find mental health providers near you. Contact us for more information.

MyHST is a wholly-owned Allstate Insurance Company and the National General Insurance Group.