Getting Creative About Behavioral Health

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With behavioral health conditions impacting one in five Americans, it’s no wonder we’re seeing more employers search for ways to provide members with better access to behavioral healthcare benefits.

Statistics show that many employees, including some that are insured, fail to get the mental healthcare they need. Because self-funded health plans provide plan design flexibility, some plans are taking bold steps to address this growing need. While many are using telemedicine to improve access and lower costs, some employers are treating out-of-network behavioral health treatment as in-network, enabling employees to pay the same amount for treatment regardless of which provider they use. Others are covering out-of-network behavioral healthcare services even when their plan doesn’t cover out-of-network services for other types of care.

When you consider that mental illness has become the greatest cause of disability claims in the U.S., it is not surprising that employers are looking for ways to help employees obtain the care they need.

Significant Action is Warranted

There is plenty of research to show that Americans are not getting the mental healthcare they need. According to Mental Health America, despite having health insurance, 56.5% of adults with mental illness received no treatment in the past year.

Another problem is that behavioral health treatments are rarely classified as primary care, and are regarded instead as specialty treatment. This makes people find an in-network provider, go out-of-network, pay higher out-of-pocket costs or avoid treatment altogether. Claims data from Collective Health shows that more than 40% of the 2017 behavioral health spend was out-of-network, which is many times the amount spent on primary or preventative care.

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Diversified Group Named One of Connecticut’s Healthiest Employers of 2018

This announcement from the Hartford Business Journal was published on December 3, 2018.

Meet CT’s healthiest workplaces

Hartford Business Journal’s first-ever Healthiest Employers Awards recognize organizations dedicated to employee health and safety in addition to their efforts to implement wellness programs.

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The awards program was done in partnership with the Healthiest Employers Group, which determined the finalists and winners using a scoring methodology managed by Springbuk, a privately held technology and data research firm.

Companies that participated in the awards program had to complete an hour-long online assessment. Companies were then ranked based on their performance on the following six measures: culture and leadership commitment; foundational components; strategic planning; communication and marketing; programming and interventions; and reporting and analytics.

CATEGORY: 0-150 CT EMPLOYEES

1st Place | Antea Group

2nd Place | FM Global

3rd Place | Gallagher

4th Place | Diversified Group

5th Place | Safelite AutoGlass

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Photo Source: Hartford Business Journal

Diversified Group

4th Place | Category: 0-150 CT employees

Industry: Employee benefits

CT Headquarters: Marlborough

CT Employees: 64

When Diversified Group (DG) started its fitness program back in 1985, it basically consisted of a boot camp-style fitness contest.

But over the years, commitment to health and wellness among employees has intensified to where DG now has a wellness department staffed by six certified health coaches, personal trainers and registered dietitians. The wellness team is responsible for spearheading the company’s wellness program.

DG has also maintained a modest fitness facility on its grounds, and within the last five years, certified instructors have been stopping by on a weekly basis for cycling, strength and yoga classes.

DG also hosts regular meditation workshops giving workers access to guided meditation sessions to decompress and recharge.

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Employers Investing More in Benefits

wellnessHealth and wellness are integral to employee performance, which helps explain why employers are investing more in their employee benefit offerings.

In June of 2018, the average cost of benefits rose by 2.9%, while wage costs rose by 2.7%, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also on the rise is paid leave, which has seen a 4% cost per employee increase since 2017. This includes paid parental leave, which allows time off for a birth, adoption or foster placement of a new child.

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More Patients Texting

mobile phoneHealthcare professionals that aren’t utilizing text communications are failing to meet their patients where they are. A 2018 survey found 11% of patients would rather communicate via text message, a number that is expected to grow as the Millennial population begins to outnumber Boomers. Text alerts and communications can be used for a variety of services, including preventative care such as periodic appointments and flu shots, post-treatment care information, remote health monitoring and chronic disease management.

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Is it Time to Offer a Financial Wellness Benefit?

Healthcare CostsStudies show that regardless of age, few employees consider financial wellness in terms of retirement, leaving them vulnerable to serious financial difficulties in later years. When surveyed, employees of all ages named “freedom from financial stress and debt, enjoying life and being prepared for emergencies” as their ideal state of financial wellness.

While the definition of financial wellness benefits and best practices vary widely, one thing is certain – employees and employers are being negatively impacted by financial pressures and widespread financial illiteracy. A PricewaterhouseCoopers study shows that more than 40% of employees spend three hours of their work day dealing with personal finances. Be it insufficient retirement planning or struggling to make ends meet, employees across a wide spectrum of industries are in desperate need of help.

Meeting Employee Needs

The good news is that financial wellness programs are on the rise. One insurance company, in fact, expects the number of plan sponsors offering such a benefit to grow from 17% to more than 50% over the next five years. And while many employers are uncertain as to what a program might include, most agree that financial wellness is not only good for the employee’s holistic health, it creates a very positive outcome for the employer as well.

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More Time Off

dg-workersFor the first time in years, Americans took more time off from work in 2017. A survey of 4,400 workers conducted by the travel industry showed that on average, 17.2 days of vacation were used last year. This was more than a full day greater than in 2014. While more vacation time was enjoyed, work pressures still kept more than half of those surveyed from using all their earned vacation days in 2017.

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Connecting Cancer Patients

cancer patientModern Healthcare and other news publications have recently written about a free mobile patient app, Belong, that is providing a platform for cancer patients to connect and explore ways of improving quality of life. The American Cancer Society and Colorectal Cancer Canada are using the app to connect with patients, which was launched in 2015 by two company executives who had lost relatives to cancer. “Belongers” can share information, connect with clinicians and detail their treatment progress. The app’s biggest success has been the “Belongers” ability to share meaningful emotional support.

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