Feb 6, 2017 12:37 PM

How an EAP Can Lower Your Company’s Health Care Costs

Your organization’s health benefits spend could climb by 4.3 percent this year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That’s after a 3.8 percent bump last year.

Costs are rising for your employees, as well. Is there any way to keep these increases in check?

When employees make healthy decisions and can get the care they need with the least amount of hassle, costs are reduced for everyone — not to mention aggravation.

Traditional medical plans aren’t the only benefit that touches on employee health: prescription drug plans, disability plans, and employee assistance programs (EAPs) do, as well. As your company searches for ways to reign in health care spending, one area to explore is how your various benefit programs work together to reduce waste and promote a healthier workforce.

An Example of Benefit Plans Working Together

Here’s an example of how coordination among benefit plans can save employers and employees both time and money:

A company employee is going through a difficult divorce. To cope, he turns to alcohol, which leads to missed workdays, reduced productivity, and conflicts with some of his co-workers.

Eventually, the employee starts seeing a therapist he was referred to by his primary care physician and paid for by his medical plan. He recovers and returns to productivity, but at a steep cost to him (his co-pays and deductible) and his company (increased insurance premiums and lost productivity).

Counseling for alcohol addiction and family issues are the core stock and trade of EAPs. The average EAP costs the employer between $12 and $40 per employee per year. That’s a far cry from the average family coverage premium of $17,545 (according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation).

And, most EAP services are completely free for employees and their immediate family members.

So if the worker in this example had been referred to EAP services, he may not have lingered without help for months before finally seeking treatment through a costly medical plan. Both he and his employer might have saved a significant amount of money.

How an EAP Can Work With Your Company’s Other Benefits

Integrating benefit programs requires providing your employees with the information they need to find the most cost-effective help for their situations.

A good EAP provider should be able to coordinate this. If you provide your EAP a list of your company’s other plans and a summary of the available benefits, it should be able to use that information when helping your employees or their family members.

For example, if an EAP counselor completes a whole health assessment with an employee and determines he or she may have a medical condition, the counselor could refer the employee to your medical plan’s condition management program.

A more advanced EAP provider can go a step further, entering into formal arrangements with other benefit plans. This allows EAP counselors to do a “warm transfer,” putting employees directly in touch with other plans, or even asking another vendor to make an outreach call to an employee in need.

Help for Your EAP Search

If you are searching for an EAP provider, or want to replace your current EAP, ask all your potential vendors how they can help your company reduce health care spending. Can they — and will they — share information with your company’s insurance carriers and claim administrators?

For 10 other questions to ask when you’re looking for a new EAP vendor, follow the link for a free 11-point checklist, “Time to Change Your EAP Provider? Key Qualities to Look for in your Next EAP.”

Do you have other tips for companies looking to bring skyrocketing health care costs back down to earth? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below.

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