According to the soon-to-be-released UBA Ancillary Benefits Survey, of the 8,557 employers answering questions about employee assistance programs, only 21.8% of employers offer EAPS. That percentage drops to 9.4% among small (fewer than 50 employees) businesses and 19.2% among midsize companies (fewer than 500 employees). As advisers, we shouldn’t forget to incorporate these programs into our clients’ benefits plans. Though sometimes stigmatized, these programs are important, not only to help employees with personal crises such as divorce, substance abuse and financial or legal troubles, but also when an organization is reeling from an employee death, hurricane recovery or even tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. 

Recently, two of our Partner Firms were sharing best practices and trends related to EAPs, which reminded me that all too often we forget this benefit — particularly with smaller groups. Erika Shea from Group Insurance Associates, a UBA Partner Firm from Connecticut, says an EAP needn’t be expensive to be effective. And Aida Visakay, CEO from AxisPointe Benefit Advisors, a UBA Partner firm in New Jersey, says good telephonic services with the ability to have on-site visits in an emergency may be highly effective for most employers and can cost less than $12 per employee, per year. 

Aida and Erika shared some trends that make EAPs an even more critical component of an effective benefits mix, namely that these programs can be leveraged to: 

  • Combat rising health care costs stemming from the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
  • Manage the rising costs of psychotropic medications
  • Help reduce increases on medical and prescription renewals
  • Help employees with ever-increasing family caregiving issues that impact work productivity, including caring for aging parents and children coping with tragedy and loss

As such, we should look to integrate an EAP with an employer’s pharmacy benefit and the disability claim process so there is more connectivity with employees during times of need. When positioned well, the EAP can become an important part of a company’s overall health management strategy. 
Thom Mangan is an EBA Advisory Board member and CEO of United Benefit Advisors, an independent employee benefits advisory organization with more than 270 offices throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. This entry originally ran on EBA’s sister site, Voluntary.com.

Editor’s note: Another EBA article on EAPs, “The New Age of EAPs,” from the February 2013 issue, appeared in inBrief earlier this week and included differing numbers on employer use of the product. Mangan’s numbers were obtained through his own company’s survey.

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