Recent health trends indicate the need for employers to design health insurance plans outside the cookie-cutter approach to mental health. This means taking a holistic view of the patient that connects and prioritizes both physical and mental health.
Here are some important behavioral and mental health insurance trends and ways you can address the needs of employees while managing to lower costs and improve care quality.
Explore how being self-funded in a group medical captive such as Roundstone can help with innovative solutions for self-care and holistic wellness.
Top Mental Health Trends of 2023
Employers and employees alike continue to grapple with the mental stress and economic hardship brought on by the ongoing effects of the worldwide pandemic. Growing awareness of behavioral health issues has also led to more individuals seeking treatment and actively seeking employers who offer robust behavioral health benefits.
Anxiety and Depression Are on the Rise
In October 2020, Mental Health America released a report outlining nine months of data on behavioral health screenings. The report found a 634% increase in anxiety screenings, while depression screenings increased a staggering 873%.
Increasing Substance Abuse
In the wake of the pandemic, substance abuse has increased. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that 14.8 million Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder and 1.6 million people have opioid use disorder. 96.6% of people with opioid use disorder misuse pain medications prescribed by their doctor.
A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report states that substance and alcohol use increased 12% during the pandemic.
Over the last three years, the number of insurance plans that cover medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for those struggling with substance abuse has grown by 114%. This type of therapy benefits those addicted to opioids and can also help treat those with alcohol use disorder.
Public Awareness and Demand
A recent survey from America’s Health Insurance Plans found that nearly half of insurance plans in America cover mental health services, and 83% assist their plan members in finding providers and making mental health appointments.
The Link Between Physical and Mental Health
Due to a combination of mental stress and lack of access to adequate care, many people are struggling with an overall decline in their physical well-being.
The KFF report also states that 12% of people reported worsening chronic conditions during the pandemic, and 36% experienced difficulty sleeping. 32% of people reported problems with eating. These issues add to the decline of physical well-being and worsen mental health overall.
Health Disparities Are Becoming More Prominent
The pandemic brought to light health disparities among Black and Hispanic populations. KFF reports that Black and Hispanic people experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety at higher levels than white adults.
These communities often lack adequate access to behavioral and mental health services. Rural Americans also face similar challenges. According to ABC News, 570 counties across the U.S. have no facilities that offer psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. This deficiency was highlighted during the pandemic and continues in 2023.
To respond to these disparities, many mental health insurance plans are recruiting behavioral health providers who more accurately represent the diversity of those they serve and investing in more telemedicine options. 83% of plans focus on including providers of color or specific backgrounds, and 78% paid higher amounts to bring these providers into their networks. Providers and Insurers, like CVS, have also made big investments in virtual behavioral health.
People Are Turning to Digital Behavioral Health Tools
During the pandemic and throughout 2023, people have turned to digital behavioral health tools to seek help for their mental and physical health. These include telehealth services for primary care physicians and online mental health and substance use disorder counseling.
Healthcare consumers are also using digital mobile applications to help them manage anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other behavioral and mental health issues.
What these Behavioral Health Trends Mean for Employers
These behavioral health trends will continue to impact employers and their employee health insurance plans. Employers must take a proactive stance to eliminate stigma, prioritize employees’ well-being, and make sure employees understand they have options to mitigate negative outcomes through well-rounded benefits with behavioral health insurance coverage.
To meet the needs highlighted by current behavioral health trends, employers should modify their mental health coverage to reduce member out-of-pocket costs for counseling services, addiction treatment, and telehealth services. Expanding access to these services through an employee assistance program (EAP) should be a key component of employer benefit plans.
Employers should also consider offering services that may enhance general wellbeing, including yoga classes, nutritional support, and app-based meditation services.
Access to Mental Health Services
Accessibility should be at the top of mind for employers as they build their insurance benefit plans.
The costliest behavioral episodes stem from inpatient treatment related to issues like major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and substance use disorder. Offering easily accessible maintenance and preventative mental health care, like telehealth and counseling services, can help prevent larger emergency costs down the line. This saves money and prioritizes the health and well-being of your employees.
Employers should remove financial barriers to care by eliminating or reducing member cost-sharing obligations for preventative care. They can also provide educational material on how to approach mental health issues and where to seek treatment. Employers can also ensure that their benefit plans cover innovative therapeutic treatments like trauma-informed care and virtual reality treatments.
Virtual access to care is a key component of an accessible employer health plan. In 2022, 38 percent of care was virtual. Even though usage has fallen since the pandemic, it remains high and can be a valuable asset in expanding employee accessibility to care. Whether for primary care physicians or mental health professionals, telehealth services have become an essential part of any employee health insurance plan. Telehealth is more convenient for members, eliminating the need to make an in-person appointment, take time off work, drive to a facility, and sit in a waiting room to receive care.
Employers should ensure that employee health insurance covers telehealth visits for physical and mental health services at a reasonable cost for members.
Promotion of Employee Well-Being Plans
Employee well-being plans provide resources (and incentives) to help members live healthier lifestyles. These programs encourage members to engage in behavior that can improve their physical health — like regular primary care visits and routine workouts. Providing members the resources to improve their physical well being can have positive effects on their emotional and mental well-being.
Thoughtful, well-promoted well-being plans are great for employee retention and can improve physical health outcomes. Employers should also recognize the behavioral health benefits of these programs.
Self-Funded Health Benefits: Flexibility and Choice for Employers
For employers with 25 or more employees, self-funded health insurance in a group captive tends to be more affordable and more flexible than traditional (fully insured) health insurance plans.
A self-funded plan allows you the freedom to build your own personalized benefits plan — a plan that is tailored to your workforce and can help you attract and retain talent. The group captive model allows mid-market and small businesses to share risk. Working with a good partner like Roundstone provides additional benefits — like a dedicated cost containment team, full access to data, and reimbursement for unspent premium.
To put it in simpler terms, self-insurance with a group medical captive allows you to enjoy the benefits of self-funding with less risk and volatility. It’s a proven funding model for small to midsize employers who wish to self-insure but don’t want to go it alone.
Custom Plan Design in Self-Insurance
Roundstone’s goal is to make self-funding attainable for all employers. With Roundstone, you have the flexibility to build your plan from the bottom up. You can customize your coverage based on your specific employee needs and underwriting data.
Most importantly, you don’t have to go it alone. We have turnkey and recommended plan design templates that can make your transition from fully insured to self-funded seamless and straightforward.
Claims Data Insights in a Self-Funded Plan
Roundstone values transparency. If you work with Roundstone’s preferred industry partners, you get transparent access to your claims data through our HIPAA-compliant CSI Dashboard. This tool gives you and our Cost Savings Investigator team insights into areas for improvement so you can make changes and/or implement solutions to control costs and provide the proper coverage for optimum utilization by employees.
Freedom to Choose Best-In-Class Solutions
With a self-funded group captive plan from Roundstone, you can choose which solution providers to work with. Freedom of choice allows you to implement employee well-being programs that are most relevant to your population. With the data insights provided by Roundstone’s CSI Dashboard, Roundstone’s Cost Containment team can recommend vetted solutions that meet your population’s behavioral and mental health needs.
Roundstone’s self-funded insurance offers year-over-year savings on your unused premiums. We give back 100% of what you don’t use. Those savings are yours to keep and use however you choose. In 2022, Roundstone distributed $24.4M unspent captive premium pro rata.
Support Employee Behavioral and Mental Health Needs
Holistic healthcare that includes mental health can be a powerful asset to improve employee retention and attract premium talent. Roundstone’s self-funded insurance can help your small to midsize businesses meet the growing demand for behavioral and mental health services.
Download our free eBook, Behavioral and Mental Health Cost-Containment Strategies, to discover ways a self-funded group captive plan with Roundstone can help you meet your employees’ behavioral and mental health needs while continuing to provide high-quality care at a lower cost.