Case Summary

A large Fred C. Church client was experiencing a troubling increase in the number of employee mental health claims being filed with its medical plan. The rise in claims activity seemed to be partially due to the pandemic and the emotional toll it took on the client’s staff and their families. In addition, based on employee feedback, the client felt that other recent traumatic situations were contributing to a heightened level of stress and anxiety in the workplace.

This case study will show how Fred C. Church’s Employee Benefits team was able to identify a mental health solution that not only provided highly accessible professional support to the client’s employees in two different countries, but also resulted in significant cost savings for the company.

The Investigation: Fred C. Church Leads the Search for a Better Mental Health Support Program

While supporting employee mental health had always been a topic of discussion between the client and the Fred C. Church Employee Benefits team, especially since the onset of the pandemic, it was at a January 2022 meeting that the issue reached a tipping point. The client shared the details of two distressing events that had recently occurred at two separate company locations.

As a result of these events, the client wanted all employees to have easy and affordable access to professional counseling and psychiatric help whenever they needed it. However, leadership did not feel its traditional medical plan could provide the robust mental health services they required, so they enlisted Fred C. Church’s Employee Benefits team to assist in identifying a more effective program.

When taking on a project like this, the Employee Benefits team’s first step is to evaluate the data, particularly year-over-year claims information, to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. A few of the red flags that emerged as part of this analysis included*:

  • An 8.5% rise in mental health office visit claims.
  • An 82.1% increase in substance abuse office visit claims.
  • A 100% upsurge in substance abuse inpatient days claims.

*The percentages listed represent the change in mental health and substance abuse–related claims from 2020 to 2021.

In addition, the client’s human resources department was receiving reports from employees that they were being wait-listed for months when trying to access mental health care providers through the company’s traditional medical plan.

Prior to the analysis by the Employee Benefits team, the client had believed a self-guided program might be an appropriate solution for its employees. However, after reviewing the analytical insights, the client agreed it should search for a more comprehensive mental health solution.

Together, the Employee Benefits team and the client established a set of four criteria to evaluate all potential programs:

  1. Provides fast access to licensed therapists and psychiatrists.
  2. Does not require a copay or other fees to be collected from employees.
  3. Is available both to employees and their dependents over 18.
  4. Is able to serve both domestic and international employees.

The client also desired a program that would encourage more employees to make use of behavioral wellness services when needed.

Fred C. Church’s corporate wellness consultant, Melissa Hill, had built relationships with numerous population health management vendors and resources, including many in the mental health space, and led the next part of the project, which included:

  • Vetting multiple mental health support programs.
  • Presenting seven possible options and describing what each of the programs could offer the client and its employees.
  • Setting up vendor demonstrations.
  • Actively participating in discussions related to selecting a final provider, developing a program contract, and implementing the program.

In July 2022, the client rolled out an online mental health solution, backed by more than a decade of industry-leading research and clinically proven results, that all employees could access free of charge. Melissa was instrumental in helping the client communicate to its employees about the new program by providing marketing materials that described how the service could help employees and their family members improve their mental health and well-being, as well as when and how employees could sign up for it.

The Findings: Where Does the Client’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Program Stand Today?

Less than a year after program implementation, the client is seeing extraordinary results. Not only has the new service made a significant and positive impact on employees, it has also led to a measurable reduction in behavioral health claims.

The following are just a few of the promising outcomes to date*:

  • 33% fewer mental health and substance abuse–related claims were filed by employees over an eight-month period, leading to an overall benefits plan cost savings of nearly $90,000.
  • 58% of people utilizing the program are new to therapy and may not have otherwise sought care if this option was not available to them.
  • Employees self-reported they were taking fewer sick days as a result of the program.

*The percentages and dollar amounts listed represent the change in mental health and substance abuse–related claims and costs during the eight-month period from July 1, 2022, to February 22, 2023, as compared to the eight-month period from July 1, 2021, to February 22, 2022.

Even though the client’s new mental health program is off to a successful start, it does not mean Fred C. Church’s job is over. On the contrary, the Employee Benefits team will continue to help promote this program with ongoing communications throughout the year. In addition, Melissa will provide a detailed quarterly report to the client’s leadership and human resources teams that includes updated claims trends and, more importantly, evaluates how employees are engaging in and benefiting from the program.

Employee mental wellness was the highest-priority issue for this client, but your organization may have very different concerns. From stress reduction to diabetes management and financial wellness programs, the Fred C. Church Employee Benefits team is poised to assist you in identifying and implementing the population health management solutions that may deliver the most value to both your employees and your organization.

To learn more about Fred C. Church’s Employee Benefits approach, please contact Ian Lonsdale at 978-322-7346.