With the onset of the pandemic exacerbating behavioral health issues throughout the US, employers did what they could to help. They provided managers with tools, resources, and training to support their direct reports. They promoted (and even enhanced) the EAP services offered, to provide employees and family members with free and immediate – if short-term – support.
But the increased need for behavioral healthcare is not receding as we emerge from the pandemic, and employers need to address the underlying issues that can prevent employees from getting behavioral healthcare when they need it. You are probably well aware of the challenges with traditional carrier behavioral health networks:
A shortage of quality in-network providers, particularly in rural and under-served communities. There’s a significant supply and demand imbalance, with the need for care far outweighing the resources available to provide care.
Long wait times for appointments are especially problematic when an individual is in crisis. And for someone looking for immediate, short-term help, they may just give up trying to find an available provider if they can’t get an appointment right away.
Inability to search for providers based on race and ethnicity. Behavioral healthcare is a uniquely personal service. Being able to work with someone who looks like you and who has had similar life experiences is often critical to treatment success. When demographic information is not available in an online provider directory, it’s harder for a member to locate an appropriate provider.
You can push your carriers to address access issues by asking what actions they are taking to expand their networks and update their directories. But if that doesn’t yield the results you want for your entire population, consider partnering with a third party vendor to supplement the carrier behavioral health networks. When evaluating vendors, you need to pay close attention to their capabilities, including:
- Online scheduling capabilities, and accuracy of the online directories
- Race and ethnic information in their directories
- Ability to offer in-person and virtual care, including the ability to access on-demand, 24/7 care
- Ability to integrate with carriers and TPAs
- Licensing in all states where you have employees
- The range of providers, from coaches to psychiatrists
- Performance guarantees
We understand if this seems like a lot to add to your already full plate! That’s one of the reasons we developed the Health Transformation Collaborative (HTC) – to make it easier and less expensive for employers to offer the market’s most innovative solutions. HTC delivers premier pricing discounts, best-in-class vendor relationship management and a simplified healthcare experience. Speak with your Mercer consultant about whether HTC might help you help your members to better behavioral healthcare.