The goal of employee assistance programs is to drive improvements in workplace well being and productivity, but few companies understand how to purchase them. These are the five common mistakes that prevent companies from purchasing a quality EAP and three strategies for success that help companies get the benefits and impact they need.
Recognize HR/benefits staff limitations.
Many HR departments are staffed with HR generalists who must manage a variety of duties and who may not have time to devote to sorting through the complex issues involved in EAP and related behavioral health benefits. As a simple function of time, HR and benefits decision makers end up focusing heavily on price. Unfortunately, this focus is ultimately ineffective at reducing long-term costs associated with non-addressed behavioral risk in the workplace.
Utilize a consultant or broker who understand EAP.
With HR generalists overburdened and lacking specific expertise in health care and benefits purchasing, many companies outsource their selection and review process to benefit consultants. Some consultants often focus on controlling short-term health care spending and may have limited experience with EAPs as separate from routine outpatient mental health services.
Don't try to compare apples with oranges.
The array of activities now embraced in many EAP contracts makes it difficult for purchasers to understand what they are buying and how to measure effectiveness. Without a clear definition of what constitutes an EAP and what constitutes quality in the delivery of EAP services, it is difficult for an employer to determine differences among vendors and their pricing models.
Don't assume that vertically integrated health and benefit plans are less expensive and easier to administer than individually developed programs.
Effective integration of EAPs and managed behavioral health care companies has less to do with who "owns" the EAP service and more to do with worksite presence and ability to collaborate with the employer on health and productivity initiatives. On a practical basis, the success of an EAP owned by a managed care plan that claims to integrate with an employer's health and productivity initiative is very dependent on how well that plan's new partnership or merger actually functions.
Don't judge a bid by its price.
It might seem counterintuitive, but an EAP can be overpriced at $1.00 per employee/per month (PEPM), or a tremendous value at $8.00 PEPM. Rather than looking at raw dollars, companies must evaluate programs based on the outcomes they achieve. Find a vendor that can provide you with empirical data that evaluates the effectiveness of your EAP.