Health benefits

How to Deliver Better Mental Health Benefits

Exacerbated by the pandemic, the demand for mental health treatment has increased dramatically, with a sharp increase in the treatment of anxiety and depression compared to 2020, according to a American Psychological Association survey.

These numbers match recent data we’ve seen from Justworks customers. As a human resources software company, Justworks helps small business owners access leading benefits, allowing their employees to manage their health and well-being, take time off, access mental health offerings, and more. Here is what we found:

  • In a survey of Justworks health insurance participants, 23% of respondents said they had used their health insurance for mental health care (i.e. therapy, rehabilitation, anxiety and stress) in the past. past year. In the same survey, 60% of respondents indicated that they expect their employer to invest in mental health support.
  • Mental health needs were reported as the reason why half of our users, whose primary care provider is A medicalvisited the doctor.
  • Three-quarters of interactions through our Employee Assistance Program, which helps employees resolve personal issues that may impact their work performance, involved behavioral health support.
  • Half of the Justworks users of the patient advocacy and assistance company, health advocatecited mental health as one of their top three needs.

Mental health is mental wealth
Not only is supporting employee mental health the right thing to do, it’s good for the bottom line. A a healthy workforce has proven to be productiveand studies have shown that mental health and physical health are inextricably linked. Good benefits are often a key consideration for potential employees.

Given employee requests and the rise of anxiety and depression, if your company doesn’t offer support for mental health care, now is the time to start. First, the basics: No federal law requires plans to provide mental health benefits, but the vast majority of large group plans do, according to the APA.

In 2008, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act passed, requiring businesses with 50 or more employees to provide mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder coverage equal to physical care coverage. The Affordable Care Act extended this requirement in 2010 to individual health insurance coverage. The main caveat here is that many insurers don’t adequately cover mental health care.

Not enough suppliers for those who need them
The other side of this problem concerns the mental health providers themselves: there is only 30 psychologists and about fifteen psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the United States, compared to approximately 156 primary care providers per 100,000 people. What makes this situation more difficult is that many mental health practitioners do not take out insurance. About a third of people with private insurance had difficulty finding a therapist who would accept their coverage, according to the cited data The Wall Street Journal. This is more than three times as many people who had difficulty finding a primary care provider in the network.

Nearly six times the number of mental health office visits in 2017 (the most recent data available) were out-of-network compared to primary care visits. In 2021, people struggled to find a mental health care provider, with therapists informing potential patients that they are not taking new cases or calling back at all.

How Small Businesses Can Help Their Employees
The mental health care shortage in this country is largely beyond the control of corporations — of course, including access to mental health care in benefits is a good start. But while small businesses shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of coverage and provider shortages, they can foster cultures of wellness and care that prioritize each individual’s physical and emotional well-being.

Read more: Mental health coaching: where the human and the digital meet to maximize support

At Justworks, we witness how our customers are actively working to find more ways to provide their employees with a variety of options, understanding that mental health is different for everyone and recognizing that it affects employees both inside and outside the workplace. Digital media company Axios, a Justworks client, recognizes that mental health is closely linked to work-life balance, according to Dominique Taylor, its director of human resources.

“Axios has designed holistic benefits that support employees in all aspects of their lives,” Taylor explained. His team uses the suite of mental health products and online counseling platforms provided by Justworks and complements them with additional creative benefits for personal well-being outside of the “office”, including quarterly mental health days, work-from-home allowances, virtual employee mental health events, and a family fund for unforeseen financial emergencies.

To help employees on their mental health journey, many companies now offer subscriptions to mental wellness apps such as Talkspace, Headspace, and Calm. These online apps make it easy to access mental health programs and some, like Talkspace, even offer direct access to online counseling and therapy services.

The mental health crisis, unfortunately, is not going away anytime soon. But addressing mental health and implementing programs in the workplace shows employees that they are supported at all stages of their mental health journey.