The U.S. is in the midst of a growing mental health crisis, and it has never been harder for Americans to pay for care. Even before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, rates of suicidal ideation and depression were steadily on the rise. As the pandemic shuttered businesses and forced Americans to stay inside their homes, things only got worse, with the proportion of adults reporting recent symptoms of anxiety and depression rising from 36.4% to 41.5% between August 2020 to February 2021 alone. There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has dramatically worsened Americans’ baseline mental health, as well as making it more difficult for them to receive care.
To make matters worse, so many Americans were either laid off or forced to quit their jobs as either a direct or indirect consequence of the pandemic, further cutting down on the amount of care they have access to. According to a recent study, a staggering 49% of Americans receive healthcare through their employer. Those who have lost their jobs or have been majorly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic may not be able to afford the healthcare they need to continue to deal with chronic mental health conditions.
What can employers do to help?
Because employers serve as the backbone of health insurance coverage in the U.S., there’s a lot that they can do to ease the mental health crisis and keep people healthy.
Partner with Plans that Offer Comprehensive Coverage
If you’re an employer that doesn’t currently offer any kind of healthcare coverage or are looking to start a business in the near future, there’s a lot to consider when shopping around for healthcare plans to partner with.
Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 includes mental health coverage as one of ten “essential benefits,” not all plans cover the same percentages of total mental health costs. Different plans offer different amounts of coverage, and these particularities can make a huge difference for employees.
When considering health plans for your employees, make sure that the plan you pick will cover a high percentage of mental health care, as it’s just as important to the safety and wellbeing of your employees as their physical health. This part at least is simple: choose the best and most comprehensive health care plan that your business can afford. Your employees will most likely pay you back through increased productivity and loyalty over years of health and financial wellbeing.
Include “Buy Now, Pay Later” Solutions
“Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) solutions are designed to help employees deal with the already high costs of health insurance. Over the past decade, out-of-pocket health costs for employees have increased 162%, while wages have only 26%, leaving many fully employed Americans unable to pay upfront bills. Plans that include BNPL options can allow employees to split up the cost of expensive visits and procedures over time, with zero additional fees or interest.
Not all employees will need to use BNPL solutions. Some of your employees may never have to even consider breaking up payments into installments.
But for those who struggle to make routine copayments or other essential health costs work, BNPL is a lifesaver. Medical debt in the U.S. can often be financially crushing, and no employee should have to choose between bankruptcy and adequate care for their mental health conditions.
Make it Easy for Remote Employees to Access Mental Health Coverage
As the pandemic began and more and more Americans adjusted to work from home, people started to have to pay more attention to out of network issues than ever before. When almost all of a given company’s employees lived and worked within a certain region of the country, employees didn’t regularly have to contend with the possibility of going out of network. Now, with large organizations regularly employing people in a wide variety of states, employees have to deal with this all the time.
Even before the pandemic, services like therapy were far more likely to be out of network than other non-mental health related services. A 2019 report revealed that behavioral health office visits were between 7 and 11.5 times more likely to be out of network than primary care office visits. Therapy and other smaller-scale mental health practices are more likely to be out of network, even if they are geographically close to the region your health plan originates from.
Luckily, there are healthcare plans being designed to help with this problem. If your company plans to continue to employ a significant remote workforce, it’s important to consider a plan with lower out of network costs. This can help encourage your employees to seek out the care they need instead of putting their own mental health on the back burner.
Even though the U.S. has some of the best opportunities for mental healthcare in the world, the hard truth is that too many Americans aren’t able to pay out of pocket for them. As an employer choosing to support your team with healthcare, there’s a lot you can do to help out and make sure that they can afford the mental health care that they need. The path towards doing so starts with assessing what your business can afford, prioritizing plans that put your employees first, and ensuring that your employees have easy access to care, wherever they may live.
medZERO is unlocking a smarter way for your employees to pay for care. Find out how.