- Preventative care for depression, certain cancers and other chronic conditions is a “major savings opportunity” for employers, according to the results of a study published Aug. 26 by the nonprofit Integrated Benefits Institute.
- The institute highlighted depression as a “disproportionately high productivity cost” for employers. The condition affected 1 in 8 employees and cost $17 per employee per year in disability wage replacement costs alone — compared to $2 per employee per year for diabetes — yet 1 in 10 employees received the recommended screening for depression.
- Hypertension exhibited a cost difference of more than $6,000 per incidence between severe and mild forms of the disease, while the same figure stood at more than $4,500 for depression. Offering leave in less complicated stages of a disease could help lower costs, as those who took such leave incurred 4% to 52% lower costs than those on leave for more serious forms of a condition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed conversations about the importance of healthcare benefits strategy, but one subset of that focus has been the pandemic’s impact on workers’ mental health.
For example, an April poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of adults said the pandemic was negatively impacting their mental health. This effect was even more pronounced for different ethnic groups in the poll: more than 50% of Black adults said the pandemic had at least a “minor” negative impact on their mental health, compared to 48% of Hispanic adults and 44% of White adults.
During the early months of the pandemic, HR industry stakeholders recommended that employers hold small events like virtual happy hours and check-ins to reduce social isolation. Others pointed to well-being platforms and technologies that provide personalized care support for workers and their families. As far as preventative care is concerned, however, employees may be less likely to attend in-person doctor and care specialist visits whether due to public-health restrictions or other concerns.
“Preventive care was vitally important before COVID-19, but employers sometimes struggled to achieve high compliance,” Kelly McDevitt, president of Integrated Benefits Institute, said in a statement. “With delayed care, and barriers to care in the current environment, it has become critical that employers attempt to remove as many obstacles as possible and encourage employees and their families to get back on the pathway to wellness.”
So far, the healthcare industry has largely pivoted to telehealth as a replacement for in-person care, including preventative care. In March, one hospital network reportedly saw as many as 500 to 600 telemedicine visits per day.
Large employers plan to prioritize telehealth in the near future, particularly for mental health care, according to a recent survey by the Business Group on Health. The organization also found that 45% of its surveyed member organizations planned mental health networks in partnership with their health plans.