The components that will make or break a wellness plan

Originally posted October 1, 2014 by Elizabeth Galentine on

When shopping around for a wellness program partner, it’s the details that matter. All comprehensive wellness platforms should consist of four core programs — wellness, disease management, EAP and work life components — says Yale Mallinger of wellness company HMC-HealthWorks, but it’s what makes up those components that will make or break a plan. Therefore, advisers must do their due diligence when choosing a wellness provider to work with, he says.

For example, most reputable wellness companies will offer two types of diagnostic questionnaires, behavioral and medical, but advisers should request to sample those tests themselves, Mallinger says. “You should be able to go to their portal and participate, get a score, test it out,” he told attendees during a breakout session Tuesday at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit.

Mallinger also recommended breaking down the diagnostic testing process itself. For medical testing, ask the vendor if blood tests are done intravenously, through a finger prick, or both and what the benefits of each method are for a particular employer client. Some employers will want the instant results that a finger prick can provide, while others will be willing to wait a week or two for more comprehensive results from lab, says Mallinger, project director at HMC-HealthWorks.

Then, for clients interested in the lab testing route and submitting the testing to their insurance carrier as a preventative health measure, Mallinger recommends going even further by having their insurance company do a trial run with that billing code to ensure it works.

The whole package

As you look at potential wellness partners, consider whether or not the company offers unbundled plans, Mallinger continues. Although he says “it does no good to put a wellness program in place if you don’t take care of all the problem [areas] for employees,” such as debt management and legal assistance, not every employer will want the top-tier package.

Presenting the benefits of a wellness plan in an unbundled format allows the clients to pick and choose for themselves, he says. Such benefits include:

  • A personal health and wellness portal;
  • A health library;
  • Health risk assessments;
  • Mobile app capabilities;
  • Reporting capabilities;
  • Diabetic supplies;
  • Concierge services;
  • Coaching services;
  • Disease management;
  • Biometric screenings;
  • Employee assistance programs, and more.

Additionally, as far as mobile technology, every wellness company has an app — “it’s what they do with it and what you can do with it” that counts, Mallinger says.

Some apps have the ability to report a range of statistics to employers, such as what people are reading or if they take a health assessment, he explains, adding that such reports are beneficial not only on an annual basis but also quarterly.

In turn, Mallinger says some wellness companies are primarily software-focused, so advisers should be sure to analyze the type and quality of any wellness coaches they provide. What kind of training do they have? How are they certified? “Take the time to break it down,” he says, and never be afraid to ask for credentials.

There are currently at least three lawsuits related to wellness plans going through the U.S. court system, Mallinger points out, so advisers should also be cautious that plans are in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and others.

Who calls EAP resource lines for assistance and why

Original article

Employees seek advice from EAP/work-life resource hot lines for myriad reasons ranging from professional and financial concerns to help with mental health issues and substance abuse problems. To give employers a better understanding of the issues their employees face and who is likeliest to make use of employee assistance program benefits, ComPsych Corporation, which fields millions of calls annually, recently analyzed gender, age and industry differences in millions of EAP/work-life calls over a 12-month period.

EAP calls analyzed by industry

Employees’ reasons for calling differed by industry, with EAP call volume suggesting construction industry workers are more prone to alcohol and chemical dependency issues, and work-life call volume suggesting that lower-income employees and hourly wage earners are more likely to need information related to government services.

EAP calls by gender

Though women callers still outnumber men (61% versus 39%), the percentage of men accessing EAP and work-life services has gradually but steadily risen from 35% 10 years ago. Though fewer men call assistance lines, more men called for help with relationship issues (22%) than women (18%). Further, men were almost five times as likely to call about alcohol and chemical dependency issues.

EAP calls by age

Younger individuals placed the highest percentage of calls for psychological reasons, and 20-somethings led the way in alcohol and chemical dependency calls. Not surprisingly, employees in 30s and 40s had the highest percentage of relationship calls. Yet, occupational-related calls — manager referrals for poor performance, absenteeism or interpersonal problems — increased in frequency according to age, with employees in their 50s and 60s placing the most calls.

Overall work-life calls

Requests for moving information and resources was the top reason for work-life calls for the second year in a row, perhaps reflecting changes in the economy and housing market that raise challenges for financially stressed individuals. After moving information, work-life callers most often sought help with child care, elder care or government services.




Connecting Millenials, Stress and EAPs


By Sean Fogarty

Millennials are loosely defined as the 75 million young adults born between 1980 and 2000 and make up about one-third of today’s U.S. workforce. Although this generation has been called everything from "innovative" to "entitled," the recent "Stress in America" study from the American Psychological Association has different label for them: Stressed.

According to this survey, which has measured the stress of Americans since 2007, stress levels decreased across the board in 2012 except for those between the ages of 18 and 33. On the survey’s 10-point scale, where a 10 indicates ‘a great deal of stress,’ the average stress level of all Americans was 4.9. For millennials, it was 5.4. Millennials reported their top stressors as work (cited by 76%), money (73%) and relationships (59%).

An employee assistance program — through short-term counseling and work-life benefits, such as financial consultation — can have a positive impact on the aforementioned stressors. After reading this survey, I wanted to determine if there was any correlation between the study’s results and CuraLinc’s book of business EAP utilization data for 2012. What I found was interesting, to say the least:

• Millennials do have job stress. Despite only representing 29% of all EAP users, those between 18 and 33 years old constituted almost half (48%) of EAP cases where the primary presenting concern was ‘Job Stress’.

• Millennials are resolution-focused. Case resolution within the EAP was higher with Millennial employees (95%) than it was among all other age groups (87%).

• Millennials have personal financial concerns. Two in five cases (41%) involving financial consultation through the EAP were provided to Millennials, even though those between 18 and 33 years old made up only 29% of EAP users.

• Promoting benefits to Millennials requires a multi-pronged approach. Employees between the ages of 18 and 33 were twice as likely to learn about the EAP through electronic promotion (email messaging, a client’s web portal, eFlyers, etc.) than other generations.

In a nutshell, the trends across CuraLinc’s book of business are consistent with the findings in the APA’s "Stress in America" survey. Millennials will seek assistance from an EAP for their job stress – and will maximize their time with the program by focusing on resolution.

The key to leveraging this information into an actionable plan is to tailor a communication strategy that drives maximum awareness of the program to millennials. This approach should combine traditional EAP promotional vehicles such as brochures, flyers and orientation sessions with a technology-based marketing approach.

In 2025, three in four working Americans will be Millennials. By helping them manage stress and anxiety in their 20s and 30s, they’ll be more productive and better-equipped to assume leadership positions down the road.