Brain with gearsWhile nearly allemployers believe that the mental health of their workerspositively impacts their company's bottom line, more than a fewstill aren't putting their money where their mouth is, according toTransamerica Center for Health Studies' report, "Employer-based Health Coverage Remains Strong butAffordability a Major Concern."


The nonprofit surveyed nearly 1,400 employer decision-makers,and found that only 65 percent of the respondents perceive themental health resources provided at theircompany are adequate. Eleven percent say they do not provideadequate resources – and 17 percent do not offer any resources.


Related: Mental health stigma hurts employers andemployees


"There is awareness of employee physical health impacts in theworkplace in terms of absenteeism and productivity," says Hector DeLa Torre, executive director of Transamerica Center for HealthStudies. "But the near-unanimous acknowledgement of what wasformerly a taboo subject in the workplace shows that mental healthis growing in importance for American employers."


Three in four employers provide at least some sort of employeemental health resources. The most common mental health resourcesoffered by employers are stress management classes (39 percent) andmental health awareness training (39 percent), followed by wellnesscenters with mental health resources (34 percent); specific daysoff dedicated to improving mental health, i.e., "mental health days" (30 percent); peer supportgroups (30 percent); mental health coaches (28 percent); and mobileapps that teach stress management techniques (25 percent).


Other key findings of the report include:

  • The proportion of employers offering health care benefits topart-time employees reaches a high (25 percent), while thosereporting they do not offer benefits to any employees has continuedto decrease each year. A majority of companies that provide healthcare benefits (55 percent) offer at least three health plans, mostcommonly a PPO and increasingly an HMO.
  • Around three in five employers are keeping costs constant foremployees' premium shares (61 percent), employees' co-pays (60percent), and employees' deductibles (63 percent). While asignificant majority of employers (64 percent) are keeping theirshare of premiums constant, around one in four (26 percent) reportthey are maximizing their share of health premiums.
  • Nearly two in five employers (39 percent) are finding ways toreduce health insurance premiums, but slightly fewer are comparisonshopping for the best options (37 percent) or talking to benefitadvisors about how to reduce costs (37 percent).
  • Almost eight in 10 employers (79 percent) want employees totake more action to minimize health care costs. Employers wantemployees to take advantage of cost saving opportunities offered bythe company, which is cited more than last year. (38 percent vs. 32percent in 2018).
  • Half of employers (50 percent) believe the quality of healthinsurance they offer to employees in the next 12 to 36 months willstay the same, while almost half, and significantly more than lastyear, believe this quality will improve (45 percent vs. 39 percentin 2018). However, employers believe that costs for companies andemployees will increase.
  • A majority of employers (63 percent) say they offer a workplacewellness program, and 68 percent of those that do report highemployee participation in their program. Among those offering awellness program, more than four in five employers say theirwellness program positively impacts performance and productivity(84 percent), workers' health (83 percent), and workers' jobsatisfaction (81 percent).
  • Over half of employers say their workplace wellness programincludes employee screenings (58 percent), healthy food or drinkofferings (55 percent), a supportive physical and socialenvironment (55 percent), or health education (51 percent).
  • There is a disconnect between the reported importance offlexibility for caregivers, maternity leave, and paternity leave byemployers and employees, as employers perceive them to be moreimportant. Almost three in five employers say student loan supportbenefits are important to attract and retain employees (58percent).
  • A majority of employers (78 percent) report taking action tomanage healthcare costs but are less frequently focusing onprescription drug savings. However, 22 percent of employers reportthey are not taking any action to manage healthcare costs. Whenasked what their company is doing in order to manage healthcarecosts, the most common response is offering an HMO plan (31percent).
  • Compared to previous years, fewer employers encourage use ofgeneric medications (24 percent vs. 28 percent in 2018 and 30percent in 2017) or increase the employee share contributed to thecost of brand name prescription drugs (16 percent vs. 20 percent in2018 and 19 percent in 2017).
  • Fifteen percent of employers are even offering "medicaltourism" trips for employees to travel to other states or countriesfor cheaper medical procedures.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.